Advanced Placement Program Clears New Paths to College
The Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP)
National Math and Science Initiative
Before the 2008-09 school year, Minor High School in Adamsville, Alabama never offered much in the way of Advanced Placement (AP) courses for its students. With 56 percent of the largely African American student body living at or below poverty level, the school -- and its students -- never had the resources to make the most of the College Board’s AP program, which prepares high schoolers for college study in key subjects from science and math to English lit.
But all of that changed when the Jefferson County School District was chosen to receive a grant from a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving post-secondary education opportunities for Alabama students. In the first year of the grant alone, Minor graduate Rudy Davis estimates that 90 students enrolled in four sections of his AP biology class.
“It was crazy. It was like there was all this pent-up demand for more challenging classes,” says Davis, who graduated in 2010 after taking six AP courses.
The grant that enabled Jefferson County to offer Davis and his peers an expanded menu of AP offerings was the result of the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program (APTIP), an initiative launched in 2007 to increase the number of students taking and passing AP exams. The program is based on research indicating that U.S. students who participate in AP coursework and exams increase their chances of success in school and in life.
APTIP combines financial incentives for students, teachers, principals and schools with an array of resources and training for students and teachers alike. A key focus of the program: expanding access to AP courses among African Americans, Hispanics and other traditionally underrepresented groups.
“We’ve been able to increase the number of students passing AP exams at a rate of 11 times the national average,” says APTIP Director Gregg Fleisher, noting that the increase is highest among female and minority students.
Programs in Six States
Thanks to grants from the National Math and Science Initiative, six states (Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Virginia) began implementing APTIP during the 2008-09 school year. That year, 67 high schools participated; currently, the states are working with 230 high schools.
Fleisher said that while the financial incentives often get the most attention, APTIP is a “comprehensive and layered program” that provides extensive training and support for teachers and students alike. The AP teachers, he said, participate in an array of training opportunities, including a weeklong summer institute focused solely on AP program content. APTIP also identifies and trains “Lead Teachers” who serve as a resource for other AP teachers in their regions.
Rounding out the program are grants to schools for science equipment, subsidies for student exam fees, and dedicated study sessions during the year for participating students with state and national experts.
Big Increase in Exams Passed
During the 2009-10 school year, first-year APTIP schools registered a remarkable 84.6-percent increase in the number of students who passed AP exams. Nationally, that number increased by 7.5 percent. In addition, the first-year APTIP schools reported a 107.3-percent increase in math, science and English AP exams passed by African-American and Hispanic students during 2009-10, and a 91.5 percent increase in exams passed by female students. Schools that had been enrolled in the program for two years reported even better results.
Tom Luce, CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative, says APTIP’s benefits extend beyond getting more students to take and pass AP exams. Citing data showing that alarming numbers of U.S. students are not ready for postsecondary education, he notes that APTIP can help ensure that students “succeed and stay in college.”
Developing America’s Talent Pipeline
Corporate supporters of APTIP include ExxonMobil, Dell Computer and Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Senior Vice President and Senior Technology Officer Ray O. Johnson, who serves on the NMSI Board of directors, says his company’s support for APTIP stems from its interest in drawing more students into science technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
“As a global security company, Lockheed Martin is committed to educating our young people in science and math. Our future success, and the future technological success of our nation, is dependent on a pipeline of highly trained, highly capable technical talent,” Johnson says.
Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, agrees that programs like APTIP can help increase the economic competitiveness of the United States and its workers. “We need to move the needle – immediately and sustainably – on student performance in critical STEM areas. Our partnership with NMSI helps accomplish that,” Tillerson says, adding that ExxonMobil has committed $125 million to NMSI to date.
For student Rudy Davis, the grant dollars that went to his home state of Alabama helped clear a path to a better future. With qualifying scores on four AP exams, the young man who was raised in Adamsville by a single Mom received $2 million in scholarship offers from a variety of colleges and universities. Davis is currently studying biomedical science at Auburn University on a full scholarship; he plans to go into orthopedic medicine.
“It gave me something to bring to the table,” Davis says humbly of his AP studies. “It showed people I had the ability to do well in college.”