Alabama holds onto No. 1 ranking in math, science and English Advanced Placement growth

Alabama holds onto No. 1 ranking in math, science and English Advanced Placement growth
A drum line from Stanhope Elmore High School performs at today's A+ College Ready Celebration at the Alabama State Capitol, at which the state's continued progress in Advanced Placement was announced. (Jamie Martin/Governor's Office)

Alabama ranks No. 1 again in the nation over the past eight years in percent growth of students achieving qualifying scores on math, science and English Advanced Placement (AP) exams, Gov. Robert Bentley announced today.

More Alabama students than ever are challenging themselves in all AP courses – 27,817 test takers in 2016, up from 5,327 test takers in 2008. This represents a 422 percent increase in 8 years: 6.5 times the increase in nationwide test takers, which has risen 65 percent in the same time frame.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks at the A+ College Ready Celebration at the state Capitol in Montgomery. (Jamie Martin/Governor's Office)
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley speaks at the A+ College Ready Celebration at the state Capitol in Montgomery. (Jamie Martin/Governor’s Office)

Access to challenging AP courses for Alabama’s traditionally underserved students also has risen dramatically as minority students represent 29 percent of the test takers and students qualifying for free or reduced lunch represent 15 percent of the test takers in 2016, compared to 18 percent and 9 percent, respectively, in 2008.

“It’s incredible what we can accomplish when we work together for the 743,893 Alabama students counting on us,” Bentley said. “This strong partnership between the state Department of Education and A+ College Ready continues to demonstrate its success with more students than ever taking challenging AP courses, and becoming better prepared to be Alabama’s leaders of tomorrow. I’m proud of how far we’ve come. But we have more work to do, and more students to reach.”

The program elements of the Education Department/A+ College Ready partnership include expanding enrollment in AP classes, increased time on task for students, intensive teacher training, support from master teachers, and incentives for teachers and students. And, to build a strong pipeline of students prepared for AP courses and college, teachers in sixth through 10th grades are provided with significant training, support and curricular materials in core subject areas.

State Superintendent Michael Sentance shared results showing that Alabama schools in this program have achieved an average 105 percent increase in passing Advanced Placement (AP) math, science and English scores in their first year of participation – 17 times greater than the national average for these same exams.

“A+ College Ready has provided priceless resources and opportunities,” said Cheryl Roberson, AP calculus teacher from Albertville High School. “Not only for me and my students, but for all the teachers in the high school and our feeder middle schools.”

A drum line from Stanhope Elmore High School performs at Thursday's A+ College Ready Celebration at the Alabama State Capitol. (Jamie Martin/Governor's Office)
A drum line from Stanhope Elmore High School performs at today’s A+ College Ready Celebration at the Alabama State Capitol. (Jamie Martin/Governor’s Office)

Roberson and Amanda Umphrey, AP coordinator from Springville High School, spoke during today’s event about how the program has improved the culture of their school and increased the confidence of students and teachers.

“Without the A+ College Ready Program, it would have been almost impossible for Springville High School to establish an Advanced Placement program,” Umphrey said. “A very successful first year is under our belt, and we almost doubled our enrollment for the second year in the program. We are very excited at what the future holds for the Advanced Placement program at Springville High School.”

In 2016-17, the Education Department/A+ College Ready Initiative will support 161 schools in 76 districts and has expanded to include support for AP U.S. history and AP government and politics as well as the new AP computer science principles course. Also, teachers in sixth through 10th grades will receive intensive training and support implementing Laying The Foundation-infused curriculum, which is developed with a strong focus on college readiness.

The Alabama Legislature and the state Department of Education provide significant funding for the program, building on initial investments from the private sector, including the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), Alabama Power Foundation, Regions Inc., Boeing and ExxonMobil, along with many other corporations, foundations and individual donors across the state. The Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) is a key partner in ensuring that all Alabama students meet the state’s College and Career Ready Standards.

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