Marshall Public Schools recognized for its Advanced Placement program

MARSHALL – Marshall Public Schools was recently named to the Advanced Placement (AP) 4th Annual Honor Roll for expanding opportunity and improving performance for AP students at Marshall High School.

AP is a College Board program that offers Minnesota high school students the opportunity to take rigorous, college-level courses and earn college credits while in high school.

Tricia Renner, executive director of K-12 Services, congratulated Marshall on behalf of the College Board.

“This is an inspirational benchmark for your district,” Renner said in her communication with Marshall. “We look forward to working with you and your teachers to support continued growth and achievement in your students.”

Marshall Superintendent Klint Willert and board chairman Jeff Chapman also took time at the district board meeting on Monday to recognize Marshall High School Principal Brian Jones and the AP teachers on staff for their dedication and expertise.

“A total of 477 schools in the United States and Canada earned a place on the Advanced Placement honor roll list this year, so it is a special distinction that we have,” Willert said. “In large part, it’s due to the work of the individuals that you see in the back row (the MHS AP teachers).”

Advanced Placement teachers at MHS include: Fred Almer, Tony Alberts, Brian Engels, Leo Geraets, Brian Leibfried, Rick Purrington and Dan Smith.

“The gentleman you see back there have contributed to this distinction that our district has received,” Willert said. “It’s an honor for us to recognize them for their contributions.”

The AP District Honor Roll recognizes efforts to open AP classroom doors to a significantly broader pool of students, while maintaining or improving the percentage of students who earn scores of 3 or higher.

Since improvement in AP results typically takes sustained effort, the AP District Honor Roll is based on examination of three years worth of AP data (2011, 2012, 2013) from all the students who took AP tests in May of those years.

Inclusions on the list was based on the three years of data, increase in participation in or access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts and at least 11 percent in small districts in addition to maintaining or improving performance levels when comparing the percentage of exams scoring 3 or higher in 2013 to 2011.

“Students have to have a 3, 4 or 5 for it to transfer in as a college credit,” Jones said.

A total of 106 test were administered to MHS students in 2011, followed by 145 in 2012 and 206 in 2013. Growth was also revealed in the number of students who received a 3, 4 or 5 score, with 46 in 2011, 82 in 2012 and 122 this past year.

“The 2012-13 school year resulted in increased student enrollment in the AP courses at MHS as well as increased numbers in student testing as we achieved six-year highs in the number of students testing (149) as compared to the five-year average of students testing (112) and with the number of tests taken (206) resulting in a 10-year high for tests taken (five-year average of test taken was 143),” Jones said. “Most importantly, we saw that the percentage of students who tested and received a score of a 3, 4 or 5 also increased to 59.2 percent, up from the five-year average of 50.8 percent.”

Testing in 2013 showed that AP tests administered (206) and test with a score of 3 or higher (122) had doubled since 2004, when 96 tests were administered to students and 62 students received a 3 or higher. Jones said he liked what he was seeing with those trends.

“This recognition really looks at increasing participation while increasing scores,” he said. “That’s what the honor roll is about. It’s a pretty encouraging trend.”

While Marshall is improving internally, the district is also performing higher than most students in state and national comparisons of mean scores.

“We offer eight AP courses, and in those eight subject areas, we were higher than the state mean score in five of those,” Jones said. “We also outperformed the nation in terms of mean score in five subject areas as well.”

Jones noted that the collaboration between all teachers, not just AP instructors, has made a big difference.

“I think this (recognition) is just a reflection of, not only the AP teacher’s hard work, but also the alignment that was done throughout the system to help get all of our kids ready to be successful when they start to take these types of classes as sophomores, juniors and seniors,” Jones said. “It’s a reflection on the entire system.”

The work that departments have done, specifically in the professional learning communities, has been the biggest indicator in the success, Jones said.

“It’s because of those early dismissals on Wednesdays, when they have the chance to talk about vertical alignment between grade levels,” he said. “It’s taken time, but that’s one of the reasons you’re seeing the trends go in that direction. We’re doing a better job in those prerequisite classes, making sure those kids have that foundational base before they go into those AP classes.”

Trend data shows an increase in AP Scholar distinctions in the district. Three students were named AP Scholars for scoring a 3 or higher on three AP exams in 2011, while 13 were named in 2013. AP Scholars with Honor, those who achieved an average of 3.2 on all AP exams taken and a 3 or higher on four of those tests, improved from three students in 2011 to five in 2013. In 2011, no MHS student received the AP Scholar with Distinction level, which requires an average of 3.5 on all AP exams and a 3 or higher on five or more exams, but two students did in 2012 and in 2013.

“That’s really nice growth,” Jones said. “And it doesn’t happen in isolation. I think it just shows that our efforts across the system are making an impact for our kids.”

Jones expects the positive trends to continue, especially in light of the state focus shift geared toward college readiness.

“There’s some real advantages of taking AP courses, including the preparation for the rigorous courses they’re going to encounter in college,” he said.

Along with Concurrent Enrollment, which some call College in the Schools, AP classes have been offered for many years at MHS and look to continue into the future.

“Our 2013 graduating class summary, where 23.9 percent of our students earned college credit in our AP program, shows a trend that continues to move upward,” Jones said. “Trends in grades 10, 11 and 12 also indicate that our AP program will continue to be highly utilized by our students with increasing frequency.”