Teacher Hails AP Test Scores as Success

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), August 7, 2006 | Go to article overview

Teacher Hails AP Test Scores as Success


Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard

North Eugene High School English teacher Diane Downey knows a 10 percent passing rate typically is not something to crow about.

Downey knows that in this case, the number might serve as fuel for critics of her school's controversial new policy that all juniors take Advanced Placement English.

But she sees the 10 percent passing rate as cause for celebration.

"We had a huge success," said Downey, the English department chairwoman, noting that no juniors took either the course or the exam last year.

Ten of the 97 North Eugene juniors who took the rigorous AP language and composition exam in May earned a 3 or better out of 5 points possible, a score viewed as the equivalent to earning a C or B grade in a college freshman English class. Scores of 3 or higher, and in rare cases even 2, can count toward college credit.

The College Board, which administers the Advanced Placement program, hasn't yet calculated the nationwide results of this year's exams, spokeswoman Jennifer Topiel said. On the same exam last year, just less than 54 percent of the 199,259 public-school juniors and seniors who took it earned a 3 or better, she said.

But there's a big difference between the North Eugene group and most others taking the three-hour exam, which includes an hour of multiple-choice questions and two hours of essay writing.

Across the nation, AP classes have long been dominated by the college-bound, academic elite - students who would be expected to succeed in the class and fare reasonably well on the culminating exam. That's certainly the case across town at South Eugene High School, where 45 of the 50 students who opted to take the language and composition exam scored a 3 or better.

But North Eugene seized on an emerging trend toward broader participation and took it a step further, requiring all juniors to take the AP English course. The only students who were exempt were those with severe disabilities, a handful just learning to speak English and those in the International High School program, which has its own series of International Baccalaureate exams.

In spring, students were given a choice: Take the official AP exam, which costs $82, or take a previous year's version at no cost. For the 100 students who chose the latter option, teachers scored their exams according to AP standards and incorporated the results into final grades.

AP exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, the multiple choice by machine and the essays by a panel made up of high school AP teachers and college professors. …

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