Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State: AP in Schools to Grow; Cox Sees Another Way to Improve

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

State: AP in Schools to Grow; Cox Sees Another Way to Improve

Article excerpt

Byline: Doug Gross, Times-Union staff writer

ATLANTA -- Between Georgia's ongoing school reforms and the federal No Child Left Behind Act, there's been plenty of talk about extra help for the state's struggling students.

But education leaders hope that expanding the number of students enrolled in some of the state's toughest courses also will help improve Georgia schools.

State schools Superintendent Kathy Cox wants Advanced Placement classes offered to students in every high school in the state by 2006, when her term expires.

She's also pushing for schools with existing AP programs to open them up to more students -- saying the extra rigor of the college-prep classes will lead to higher SAT scores and a student population more prepared for higher education.

"There's this idea that these classes are exclusive and very selective and only offered to the top 10 percent [of students]," Cox said. "We've got to de-mythologize this."

To reach that goal, education leaders will have to train teachers -- and, in some schools, hire new ones -- during the tightest budget crunch the state has faced in more than a decade.

State schools suffered $156 million in spending cuts this year, as lawmakers struggled to balance a budget amid dwindling tax revenues.

"We're going to have to beef up the number of teachers and the qualifications of those teachers" to expand advanced placement, said Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators. "It's going to cost money to do those things."

The Advanced Placement program was created in 1955 by the College Board, which also administers the college-entrance SAT exams. The classes aim to mimic college-level work for high-performing students. Those who do well on an exam at the end of those courses -- scoring at least a 3 on a 5-point scale -- can earn college credit for them.

Last fall, about 25,000 Georgia students took 42,750 Advanced Placement exams.

Adding to those numbers means, in part, enrolling students who never before have considered advanced classes.

Charlotte Robinson, who Cox hired as director of testing with the state Department of Education, has been visiting Georgia schools, encouraging them to open access to Advanced Placement classes.

Administrators are being encouraged to study results of the PSAT, the practice exam many students take as early as middle school, to identify those who may do well in advanced classes.

Too often, Cox said, teachers and administrators track the same "honors" students who always have done well into advanced placement, without considering other students who may excel in them.

"For the schools that have AP, many times it's a very exclusive offering," Cox said. "They're not opening the AP experience to enough of our kids.

"We've got to make sure that they're offering [the classes] everywhere, then, once they're offered, to open them up. …

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