While the number of Tooele County School District students that take advanced placement courses has doubled over the last two years, the number of students in Tooele County that take and pass AP tests lags behind their state and national counterparts.
The AP program is conducted by the College Board, a New York City-based non-profit organization that started in 1900 hundred by a small group of colleges to simplify college admissions and develop a standardized college admissions test. Today the College Board organization consists of over 6,000 educational institutions nationwide. The College Board approves AP courses, teachers and administers AP tests. Based on the results of AP tests high school students may be granted college credit for courses they took in high school.
In 2012, Tooele County high school students passed 107 of the 210 AP exams they took. That is a 51 percent pass rate compared to a 68 percent pass rate for all Utah students and a 59 percent national pass rate for AP exams.
District officials are not sure why the pass rate is lower for Tooele County students, according to Doelene Pitt, Tooele County School District assistant superintendent.
“We will meet with our AP teachers and map out the curriculum and make sure that it is aligned with the skills needed to pass the test,” said Pitt.
Students at Grantsville High School took 28 AP exams with a 54 percent pass rate, Stansbury High School students took 64 AP exams with a pass rate of 45 percent, and at Tooele High School 118 AP tests were taken with a pass rate of 53 percent.
THS has more students that take AP tests in part because the school has more teachers qualified to teach AP classes.
THS offers 11 AP courses, while Stansbury offers eight AP courses and Grantsville offers three AP courses per year.
Tooele High School offers more AP courses because they have more teachers that are approved by the College Board to teach AP, allowing then to promote AP classes, Pitt said.
“When Stansbury High School opened it just turned out that a majority of the AP teachers stayed at Tooele High School,” said Pitt. “We will get more AP teachers at Stansbury as time goes on, but it takes a big commitment of time from teachers to do everything they have to do to be approved to teach an AP course.”
Students that want to take an AP course at a high school other than the one they are enrolled at may due so, but few choose that option because they must provide their own transportation, Pitt said.
It takes over a year to get a new AP course and teacher approved by the College Board, the non-profit organization that administers the AP program.
The district started in the summer of 2012 to get approval to add AP language and literature courses to the AP courses currently offered at the three high schools in Tooele Valley. Teachers had to attend a summer training program and then develop a syllabus for the courses, which had to be submitted to the College Board for approval. The district hopes to have the courses approved and ready to offer starting in the fall of 2013, Pitt said.
While the number of students taking AP courses has increased locally, the number of students taking AP tests is lower than the number of students taking AP tests in similar-sized high schools in Utah.
Skyline High School in Salt Lake City had 589 AP tests taken this year, Bountiful High had 392 AP tests taken; Box Elder High had 225 AP tests taken, and at Bonneville High in Ogden 150 AP tests were taken. All four high schools are similar in enrollment to THS, where 118 students took AP tests in 2012.
One reason Tooele County School District students take fewer AP tests may be due to the popularity of locally offered concurrent courses through Utah State University, Weber State University, and Salt Lake Community College that grant college credit, according to Oborn.
Concurrent courses cost students less than AP courses and college credit is granted if the student receives a “C” or higher grade instead of needing to pass a one-time test.
In 2012, 646 Tooele County School District students took 1,554 concurrent courses. About 55 percent of those courses were general education classes and 45 percent were in career and technical fields, according to Marianne Oborn, Tooele County School District CTE director.
“Both concurrent and AP classes are rigorous courses and prepare students for college and careers,” said Oborn.