York Comprehensive High School’s efforts to boost student participation and achievement in college-level courses were so successful that the York school district is one of only four in the state to make the College Board’s Advanced Placement Honor Roll in 2012.
The York district joins 539 others in the U.S. and Canada receiving the honor.
“I’m really pleased with what our school district has done to make sure kids are taking the most challenging courses,” York Superintendent Vernon Prosser said.
Educators often tout the importance of college-level courses such as Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate and dual credit.
They’re not only intended to challenge students and prepare them for higher education. Many universities give students credit for passing the courses.
Schools offer AP classes in a variety of subjects. Students who pass the final exam – scoring a 3, 4 or 5 – can earn college credit.
But educators say even students who don't pass benefit from the challenge.
York Comprehensive High has put a premium on boosting enrollment in tougher classes.
Principal Diane Howell calls it a push to “a college-going culture.”
Counselors and administrators seek out students with potential to succeed in upper-level courses and encourage them to enroll.
Students can get support in the school’s academic enrichment center.
“Once a child takes a course, we want to make sure we give them the support they need to be successful in that course,” Prosser said.
In a district where more than 60 percent of students come from low-income homes, widening access also means knocking down financial barriers. The school pays AP enrollment fees for students.
Between 2009 and 2011, enrollment in AP nearly tripled.
Between AP and dual-credit, which is offered through York Technical College and the University of South Carolina, more than a third of the school's students enrolled in at least one upper-level class during the 2011-12 school year.
Since 2010, York Comprehensive High has seen the number of students earning AP exam scores of 3 or higher jump by 10.58 percent.
The College Board’s AP Honor is based on three years of AP data, from 2010 to 2012.
To make the grade, school districts must:
• Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts and at least 11 percent in small districts.
• Ensure that the percentage of minorities taking AP exams did not decrease by more than 5 percent for large and medium districts or by more than 10 percent for small districts.
• Improve performance.
York Comprehensive High isn’t the only local school to make progress.
The Fort Mill district made AP Honor Roll in 2011 after Nation Ford and Fort Mill High added more students to AP courses and saw academic gains.
Across York County, more students have been taking AP courses. Most high schools have seen increased enrollment.
Staff writer Jennifer Becknell contributed