Two Rock Island County school districts have been named to the national Advanced Placement Honor Roll.
The Sherrard Community School District and United Township High School District were among 11 Illinois school districts named to the honor roll. Nationwide, 250 districts were recognized by the College Board, a not-for-profit organization that strives to improve access to higher education.
According to a release from the Illinois State Board of Education, the recognized districts have significantly increased access to advanced placement (AP) classes to historically underrepresented student groups, while also increasing or maintaining the percentage of students who earned scores of three or higher on AP exams with one-to-five scales.
Statewide, according to the ISBE release, students of color now make up 48% of students enrolled in AP courses, and the state’s pass rate on AP exams has increased by 2.5 percentage points since 2016. The state’s 2020 budget included $2.5 million for AP exam waivers for students with limited resources and grants for schools to develop and implement AP courses.
The College Board reviewed three years of AP data, from 2017 to 2019, in determining its honor roll list. High school students who earn a score of three or higher on the one-to-five scale can earn college credit or placement.
Sherrard expanding AP classes
Tim Wernentin, principal of Sherrard High School, said the district was thrilled to earn the recognition.
“We’ve worked hard as a staff to expand our AP offerings, and beyond that, really focusing on students performing well on the exams,” he said. “We have a great group of teachers who go above and beyond getting the kids prepared."
Sherrard students have the opportunity to take AP classes in the areas of statistics, calculus A and B, English literature, English language, U.S. history, chemistry, biology, and studio art. Next year, Sherrard will be adding AP physics and computer science.
Wernentin said last year the district administered 100 AP exams, and 79 of those test takers earned a score of three or higher. Some students took more than one exam. Additionally, he said, last year the high school recorded 13 scores of five — the highest score possible. He said that is remarkable for a school of Sherrard’s size.
Wernentin said the district has worked to increase its AP offerings, while also increasing other opportunities to suit the varied needs of students. He said he is proud of the great work that has been done by both teachers and students.
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“We see extreme value in providing opportunities for students, whatever their interests are,” he said. “Obviously, these are for college-bound students who earn college credit with an appropriate score.
"We’re also expanding opportunities in industrial tech and agriculture. We’re really trying to provide experiences for all of our students. Their needs are so different in a rural community, we want to prepare them for whatever’s next in their life.”
The Sherrard Community School District requires students taking AP classes to take the AP exam, and therefore the district pays for the exams, Wernentin said. According to the College Board, each exam costs $94.
UT staff, students work together
United Township High School students also do not pay for AP exams, and that has had a major impact on the number of students earning AP credit, according to Shannon Miller, director of curriculum and instruction.
“We as a district made the decision three years ago to invest in advanced placement in order to pay for all of our students — that would be covered through our Title I funds,” she said. “One of our biggest tenets we believe in is all students should have the opportunity to reach their highest and fullest potential.”
Miller said this approach removes any financial barrier for students.
“They have really stepped up and wanted to be able to receive college credit while in high school,” she said. “We’re making sure students know it’s available, giving them the resources to be prepared for exams.”
Miller credited the district’s success to many individuals working together.
“The teachers and guidance counselors and students are the ones — the success story behind all of this,” she said. “I’m really proud of all the work being done on behalf of our staff and students.”
Last year that hard work led to 79 students taking 135 AP exams. Students at UT can take AP courses in French, psychology, English literature, English language, biology, government, Spanish, chemistry and calculus.
Miller said the district’s commitment to two programs has been influential in helping the district make the AP Honor Roll.
The first is the high school’s critical thinking program for academically talented students in 10th through 12th grades. The second is the district’s commitment to the Seal of Biliteracy, a distinction that recognizes students who have attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation.
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