VIRGINIA BEACH — Whether the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses is a sign of a school district’s success or simply an indicator of already intelligent kids, the Virginia Beach City Public Schools is doing well.
Advanced Placement – or AP – courses give high school students the opportunity to take advanced coursework in certain subject areas and potentially earn free college credits while still in high school.
“To see that more students of all backgrounds are not only enrolling in AP courses, but also taking and passing the exam is outstanding news,” said Aaron Spence, superintendent of VBCPS. “Our students are stepping up to challenging college-level work and succeeding.”
More than 7,200 VBCPS students were enrolled in at least one of the 35 different AP courses the school offered during the 2017-2018 school year, up 211 from the year before. The students also increased the number of exams they took in these courses, going from 9,631 in in 2016-2017 to 10,123 last year.
A total of 1,419 VBCPS students last year were designated AP Scholars (up from 1,353 the year before).
“This is a testament to the incredible instruction from out talented teachers as well as our dedicated students who give their all to achieve their very best at these high levels,” Spence said.
School staff and administration have made it a priority to prepare students for AP course work. The students’ PSAT performance is reviewed and if AP potential is identified in any subjects, staff works with students to develop schedules that will allow them to enroll in the appropriate AP course.
This year VBCPS partnered with the National Math and Science Initiative, receiving a $4 million grant that will help them increase the number of students who may be exposed to AP courses.
The grant covers training for teachers and for tutors to work with students on Saturdays, to assist with education and testing skills.
The district also partnered with Equal Opportunity Schools to increase enrollment of low income and minority students in the AP courses.
Thanks at least in part to that partnership, the division saw an increased participation from demographic subgroups, including an 8.4 percent rise in the number of African-American students taking AP exams.