Central Kitsap School District students finding success at AP level

High expectations and quality teaching are translating into above-average Advanced Placement (AP) exam scores in the Central Kitsap School District, particularly at Central Kitsap High School.

“The reason we’re successful is we’ve got great teachers,” Superintendent Greg Lynch said. “The teacher really is what makes the class.”

AP exams are scored on a 1-5 scale with 1 being “not qualified,” 2 being “possibly qualified,” 3 being “qualified,” 4 being “well qualified” and 5 being “highly qualified.”

Districtwide 2007-08 numbers are impressive, as 663 CKSD students took a total of 1,342 AP exams, scoring a 3 or higher on 72 percent of them, according to numbers released by College Board.

The district’s overall data, however, is weighted heavily because CKHS students took — and scored 3 or higher — on so many tests. In fact, for the 2007-08 school year only three public high schools in Washington state — Newport High School (1,960), Bellevue High School (1,306) and Sammamish High School (1,021) reported more AP tests taken than CKHS, which registered 941.

But with 760 scores of 3 or higher, equalling about 81 percent, CKSD posted a higher passage rate than each of the aforementioned schools (Newport, 68 percent; Bellevue, 62 percent; and Sammamish, 44 percent).

“We’re staying pretty consistent in the 70-percentile range (of 3 or higher),” said Chris Wyatt, CKSD director of student services, of the district’s 3 or higher passage rate.

Wyatt said one of the district’s primary goals for the future is to expand the AP program, boosting scores at its other high schools, Olympic High School (OHS) and Klahowya Secondary School (KSS).

For example, OHS had 110 scores of 3 or higher on 220 exams administered in 2007-08, totaling 50 percent, while KSS had 90 scores of 3 or higher on 181 tests, also about 50 percent.

“We’re looking at ways we can expand the program,” Wyatt said of upping passage rates at OHS and KSS.

Part of that expansion begins at the junior high level, Wyatt added, because students need to acquire the skills — and confidence — necessary to succeed at the secondary level.

“The feeder programs, I see those growing across the district,” Wyatt said, noting pre-AP English courses currently offered at the junior high level. “These classes are really designed to help prepare kids for AP classes.”

While making strides is the district’s No. 1 goal, Lynch said it’s a process that doesn’t happen overnight.

“It takes a long time to grow a long-term AP program,” he said.

Lynch, who presented the district’s overall AP success at conference in June, cited trends over the last 15 years to illustrate his point.

Between 1991-92 and 2007-08 CKSD’s AP enrollment has jumped from 291 students to 1,797 students, with 144 and 1,166 tests administered in those years, respectively.

Lynch’s June presentation noted the role of parents, flexibility in transferring students from classroom-to-classroom and cultivating a “culture of success” as key factors in establishing solid AP programs.

“If students encounter great difficulty, counselors and teacher(s) need to be willing to make schedule changes to support the student,” his presentation states.

But it all starts with the teachers, Lynch said.

The district, according to his presentation, recruits teachers who are willing to teach rigorous courses and encourages teachers to attend AP training seminars to become AP-qualified.

The district had 51 AP-qualified teachers and offered 60 AP courses in 2007-08, according to his presentation.

Tutoring programs also offer students extra opportunities to excel and, consequently, enroll in AP courses.

“I think the biggest piece to this is having somebody encourage them to try it,” Wyatt said.

And that encouragement, along with holding students to high expectations, fosters an AP-successful environment.

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