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Top 10 academic ranking in key courses complemented by steady growth of AP

With 2011-2012 final grades and advanced-placement data in hand, New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School continues to show steady improvement on an already strong record of student performance, board members learned at their monthly meeting, July 12.

Sci High ranked in the top 10 citywide on all four course exams: sixth in English, with a score of 67; sixth in Geometry, with a score of 47; eighth in Algebra I, with a score of 59, and tenth in Biology, with a score of 40

Sci High showed the greatest growth in its fledgling advanced-placement program. The program began in the 2009-2010 school year  in partnership with AdvanceNOLA, which was created by Tulane’s Cowen Institute to fund advanced-placement training and incentive programs in several public high schools. In the past year, Sci High achieved its highest student participation levels and performance scores to date.

Known for their rigor, advanced-placement programs are an introduction to college-level course work. Participating students who score three or higher on a five-point grading scale gain college credit for their work.

Operating on an open-enrollment basis, in the past year Sci High offered advanced-placement courses in Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Language, Literature, U.S. History, Statistics and World History.

Sci High students earned qualifying scores of three or better on 31 advanced-placement tests, a 350 percent increase over the previous year. Seventy-five students achieved a college-ready score of two or better on all tests.

“In 2011-2012, over 84 percent of the senior class took at least one AP class, which is something we’re really proud of,” said Delaney French, Sci High’s advanced-placement program coordinator and academic counselor, after presenting data to the board. “We aren’t just focused on scores; we want to expose students to rigor.  Qualifying scores are a secondary goal, but something we’re also really excited about.”

Board members are pleased with results and said they hope rising test scores will continue to boost student enrollment.

From its inception, the program was about enhancing student opportunities, French said.

“Our students want what so many high school students want, options after graduation.  They want to get into great colleges and get their college educations paid for through scholarships, and they want to have choices about their futures. Open-Enrollment AP classes are the vehicle we use to help our students get access to those goals.”

French said before the classes were offered, too many students graduated without the skills they needed to succeed in college-level work.

“Over the last three years, we’ve seen startling evidence that when students make the choice to take on a challenge, they will overcome all sorts of academic and behavioral obstacles to find success,”  French said.

When helping students choose their schedules for the upcoming school year there is a hard-and-fast rule at Sci High: “We only recommend up, “We never tell a student they can’t do something. Any student is capable of succeeding in a rigorous academic environment with the proper motivation and support.” French said.

“This is really the backbone of our program.  “We tell students that they should all take at least one AP class in their high school career, and that they can take as many as they can handle.”

Sci High’s goal is for 50 percent of graduating students to earn AP credit and for all of them to achieve college-readiness. French said this year’s results show that they are headed in that direction.

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