State Actions Spur A.P. Expansion in Southeast

By Lynn Olson — November 21, 1984 6 min read
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College Board officials point to the southeastern corner of the country as the region showing the most dramatic growth for the Advanced Placement program.

And they attribute that growth to a deliberate effort by state-level education officials and legislators.

Between May 1983 and May 1984, the number of examinations taken in the region increased from 33,500 to 42,011, according to Geoffrey E. Freer, associate director of academic support services for the board’s southern regional office.

More than 100 schools in the 10-state region added ap courses to their curricula in the 1983-84 school year, he said. The number of participating students swelled by 6,000.

Mr. Freer predicted an even larger groundswell in the coming year, saying he expected that students would take as many as 55,000 examinations.

Florida’s Financial Incentive

Some 45 percent of the Southeast’s growth last year came in Florida, according to the College Board. In May 1983, the state accounted for 8,500 ap exams. By May 1984, that number was up to 12,500.

State officials say that recent legislation is sure to keep that number climbing because it tied state aid to participation in the ap program.

A bill passed by Florida’s General Assembly in 1983 changed the state’s weighted, per-pupil funding formula so that a school received an additional 0.3 “weight” for every3student who successfully completed one or more ap examinations in the past school year. In 1984, as part of the Omnibus Education Bill, the legislature changed the formula again, so that schools now receive the additional 0.3 “weight” for each examination that a student successfully completes.

The weighting factor is worth approximately $562 per examination, according to William J. Connolly, administrator of state-aid calculation in the department of education. Thus, he said, a student who successfully completes three examinations in one year could earn his or her school an additional $1,686 in funding for the coming year.

Schools can use the money anywhere in grades 9-12, although the legislature’s intent was to defray the costs of ap programs in particular, according to Robert N. Bickel, program specialist with the department of education.

The cost of the legislation is approximately $820,000 for 1984-85. The state distributes about $490,000 of that money under the aid formula. Mr. Freer noted that 12 to 14 of Florida’s major school systems--including the districts that take in Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami, and Tampa--are now paying for students to take the examinations.

South Carolina’s Mandate

South Carolina’s Education Improvement Act of 1984 requires that by the 1985-86 school year, each6school district offer at least one ap course in all secondary schools that enroll 1,000 or more students. By the 1986-87 school year, every high school in the state, regardless of the school’s size, must offer at least one ap course, according to the state regulations.

Classes can be offered by the school itself, under a cooperative arrangement with other schools in the area, or through independent study.

Every student who enrolls in an ap course must take the corresponding ap examination. The state will pay all examination costs.

In addition, every teacher of an ap class must complete an appropriate ap training course provided by one of the state’s colleges or universities. The state department of education is paying for and coordinating the training programs.

The total program is budgeted at $669,000 for the 1984-85 school year. Of this amount, approximately $200,000 is for teacher training; $175,000 is for resources, such as textbooks and laboratory equipment; and $294,000 is for examination costs.

By the 1988-89 school year, the program is expected to cost the state $1.7 million, according to Gregg M. Strasler, deputy director of the education division in the governor’s office.

The state passed the legislation after discovering that fewer than half of South Carolina’s high schools offered ap courses in the 1982-83 school year, said Terry K. Peterson, education adviser to Gov. Richard W. Riley. In addition, the percentage of South Carolina students who scored 3 or better on the ap examinations was below both the national and the regional averages.

Others Weigh Moves

Two more Southern states--Louisiana and Kentucky--are also working on proposals to expand their ap programs.

Last year, Louisiana’s legislature passed a bill to provide $300 to schools for each student, up to a total of 10, who scored 3 or better on an ap examination. The legislature withdrew funds for the bill at the last moment but is expected to appropriate money for the plan this year, according to Paul E. Vanderburg, section chief of the bureau of secondary education in Louisiana’s department of education.

Mr. Vanderburg, who explained the legislation at a workshop held at the College Board’s annual conference in New York City last month, said the legislation is unusual in that the state will pay for ap programs in public schools and state-approved private and parochial schools.

In 1982, only four states in the nation had a smaller proportion of schools participating in the ap program than Louisiana, according to Mr. Vanderburg. Today, 11 states rank below Louisiana, he said.

The state experienced a 118-percent increase between 1982 and 1984 in the number of ap examinations taken--from 480 to 1,045. And the number of schools participating in the program grew by 128 per3cent--from 25 schools, of which 12 were public, to 57 schools, of which 40 were public.

A New Diploma

Kentucky is also considering educational reforms that would rely heavily on the ap program.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Alice McDonald will recommend to the state board next month a proposal for a “Commonwealth Diploma Program” that would provide high-school students who have pursued a “rigorous high-school curriculum” with a special state diploma in addition to their regular high-school diploma.

To qualify for the diploma, a student would have to earn 22 high-school credits, including at least four courses--distributed in the areas of foreign language and English, mathematics, and science--that contain the essential content described in the College Board’s ap course-description booklets. Qualifying students would have to take the ap examination in at least three of the four subject areas.

Ms. McDonald is proposing that the state pay for the cost of all examinations. Although no dollar figure has been attached to the proposal yet, according to Donald D. Hunter, special consultant to Ms. McDonald, the department estimates that between 1,500 and 2,000 students--or 6 to 7 percent of the state’s high-school population--will participate in the program each year.

State legislators in other regions are also moving to encourage participation in the ap program.

In Utah, lawmakers in 19836passed a $300,000 measure that provided additional money to schools for each examination that their students passed. The added funding is approximately $250 per examination, according to Richard E. Kendell, the state’s associate superintendent for public instruction.

Between 1983 and 1984, the total number of ap examinations taken in the state jumped from 3,669 to 4,633, according to Mr. Kendell. He said the legislature was so pleased with the results that it more than doubled the appropriation for this school year to $700,500.

Schools must spend the funds to strengthen existing ap programs or create new ones, he said. He added that Utah now tallies the most examinations per man, woman, and child of any state in the nation.

Training in Arkansas

In Arkansas, the legislature set aside $75,000 this year to train teachers to develop ap courses, according to Mr. Beshara of the College Board. The state had only four of its 350 high schools participating in the ap program in 1982; there are 22 high schools in Arkansas participating in the program this year.

Washington State’s legislature this year may also consider a recommendation by Gov. John Spellman’s Temporary Committee on Educational Policies, Structure, and Management that would require all school districts to provide an opportunity for students to participate in ap programs, according to Lynn T. Waller, associate executive director of the Association of Washington School Principals.


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