Thursday, September 22, 2011

AdvanceKentucky driving Kentucky’s improvement in AP course performance

About a week ago, the Kentucky Department of Education announced that the state had made very nice progress with the performance of Advanced Placement courses in 2011. Some highlights statewide:

• There were good increases in the number of students who got scores of 3, 4 or 5, which usually provide college course credit for the high school students who take AP courses.

• The number of students taking at least one AP exam increased nearly 80 percent since 2007, rising from 13,208 to 23,547 students.

While this was good news, I knew there would be more to the story. In the past three years AdvanceKentucky’s very dramatic program to improve AP offerings in Kentucky’s public high schools has accounted for a dramatic proportion of the state’s overall improvement in AP course participation and passing score rates.

Now, I know the answers for this year, and the dramatic story of AdvanceKentucky continues to grow.

In fact, the real story about AP improvement in Kentucky is largely the story of AdvanceKentucky improvement.

AdvanceKentucky’s news release dated September 22, 2011 has one sentence that summarizes the whole story very nicely. It says that in 2011 AdvanceKentucky participating high schools:

“…contributed 83 percent of Kentucky’s new AP passing scores in all subjects statewide, although they account for only 22 percent of the junior-senior enrollments statewide.”


Want to know more? Just click on the “Read more” link.

AdvanceKentucky focuses on a few key AP academic areas: Math, Science and English (MSE). The program considers a “qualifying score” to be an AP score of 3 or higher because most colleges will accept scores in that range as proof of acceptable performance. Usually, students get credit for that course as soon as they enter college. They don’t have to take the course again, saving students both time and money.

The statewide 2011 AP results include results from three groups of AdvanceKentucky high schools, known as Cohorts 1, 2 and 3. The first cohort of schools started in AdvanceKentucky three years ago in the 2008-09 school year. The second cohort was added a year later, and the third came on board at the start of the 2010-11 term.

The graph below, taken from the AdvanceKentucky news release, gives you an idea about how this exciting program has pushed the participating schools way out in front of other high schools in Kentucky for the numbers of their math, science and English (MSE) AP qualifying scores of 3, 4 or 5.

On this graph, the Kentucky average of the proportion of students who earn a 3 or more on the AP is shown by the red line and the US average is shown by the green line.

Notice that each of the three AdvanceKentucky cohorts (shown by the blue, purple and black lines) had low proportions of their students earning AP passing grades in the last year prior to entering the AdvanceKentucky program.

For example, Cohort 2, shown in purple, started the AdvanceKentucky program in the 2009-2010 school year. Its last pre-AdvanceKentucky qualifying score ratio in 2009 was 92, below the national average and just above the Kentucky statewide average. There was some improvement for Cohort 2 from the previous year when its ratio was 74, but the rate of improvement was not very rapid. However, by the end of its first year in the AdvanceKentucky program, Cohort 2’s qualifying score ratio had soared to 145, which was better than both the US and Kentucky statewide average. And, the graph shows the rate of improvement had gone up dramatically, as well.

Even greater performance is found for Cohorts 1 and 3. Their program entry year qualifying score rates (shown by the beginning of the solid lines) were below both US and the Kentucky averages – with Cohort 3 starting out well below both the Kentucky and US average performance. And, Cohort 3’s pre-AdvanceKentucky AP performance was almost flat, as well.

That all changed dramatically in a short period of time.

As of 2011, all three cohorts left both the US and the Kentucky AP course average passing rates in the dust.

There is more good news. AdvanceKentucky already accepted another group of high schools into its Cohort 4 for the 2011-2012 school year, so Kentucky’s overall AP performance will likely get even better when scores are reported next year.

By the way, AdvanceKentucky is already starting to work on applications for a Cohort 5 set of high schools for the 2012-2013 term. The good news there is that under a new school superintendent, Jefferson County Public Schools may finally have some applicants.

You see, up until now, not one high school from Kentucky’s largest school district has entered the AdvanceKentucky program. The word is past resistance is supposedly due to the Jefferson County Teachers Association’s objections to an AdvanceKentucky program feature that awards AP teachers with $100 for each student who earns a qualifying score on the AP exams. To this highly militant union chapter in Jefferson County, that looked like much-disliked merit pay.

Moving forward, here’s hoping that all the adults in Jefferson County’s school system will put away their self interests and jump on board the impressively rolling AdvanceKentucky bandwagon. This is a great program that works especially well for minority students, as this next graphic shows. I have friends in Jefferson County who definitely should want this program for their kids.

Check out more in the AdvanceKentucky news release, which soon should be available in the AdvanceKentucky web site.

The AdvanceKentucky story makes for exciting reading. This imaginative program shows Kentucky can make dramatic education improvement if we target our efforts intelligently and spend our dollars wisely.