More advanced placement courses at Metcalfe County High School will be available to students this school year, according to the school’s principal.

The school recently increased its offering of advanced placement or AP classes for the 2011-12 school year from three to eight, providing students with more chances to earn college credit while in high school.

Kelly Bell, MCHS principal, announced plans to increase the AP class offerings for the upcoming school year during a recent Metcalfe County Board of Education meeting while giving a report on the school’s receipt of the Advance Kentucky Grant.

“Metcalfe County has been labeled a high unemployment county.  MCHS takes this fact very seriously and believes all of our students need a certification in some area for the betterment of their families and therefore our community. We have an extremely talented student population and a community eager for school improvement,” said Bell. “We intend, as a school, to provide the resources necessary to promote our student population to successful postsecondary endeavors.  Higher expectations, well-trained capable teachers, educational experiences beyond the classroom and a supportive community will provide the needed results.”

AP classes MCHS will be offering during the upcoming school year are: Statistics, Chemistry, Biology, English Language, English Literature, U.S. History, World History and Psychology.

The grant is offered through the National Math and Science Institute. Money obtained through the grant program is used to fund professional development for instructors who teach, math, science and English AP courses.

In addition to funding professional development training for teachers, the grant also covers half the cost for instructional resources, including lab specimens, textbooks and monetary rewards for students who pass the exams.

“What it basically does is try to motivate students to take rigorous college level classes, but in the warm environment of their high school,” said Bell. “It’s a hand-in-hand project to try to get students to go to post-secondary [schools].”

AP classes differ from other high school classes not only in rigor, but also in the way they demand students study. Students will not focus on memorizing facts and figures, instead they will engage in discussions, solve problems collaboratively and learn to write clearly and persuasively, according to the College Board Inspiring Minds’ website about AP classes.

Students who take AP classes must pass a test in order to earn college credit. The credit can be transferred to any university in the state, as well as to Bowling Green Technical College.

In addition to receiving credit for their AP classes, students can also earn monetary rewards.

“If they pass the AP test with a 3, 4 or 5, the school reimburses them their test fee and they get $100 tax free,” she said. “The teacher also gets $100 per student in their class who scores a 3, 4 or 5 on the AP.”

There is no prerequisite to take an AP class, however, MCHS requires students be at least sophomores before attempting to take the classes.  Freshmen can take pre-AP classes, and beginning in 2012 and 2013 freshmen will be able to take AP environmental science, Bell said.

Five MCHS instructors recently attended a professional development session funded by the Advance Kentucky Grant Program.

“Five went, but four were brand new teachers, and they said it was the best training they’ve ever had in their lives,” Bell said. “It gives that intensive instruction that they need that we couldn’t afford, but this grant pays for.”

The grant also pays for three student group sessions for students prior to each math, science and English AP exam. The study sessions will be in Metcalfe, Barren and Glasgow school systems, she said.

MCHS also offers two dual-credit courses — English 4 and medical terminology, but prefers students take AP courses.

“We have a wonderful partnership with WKU and Campbellsville University. They take good care of our students,” Bell said. “We prefer AP over dual-credit for the main reason of transportation issues.”

Bell pointed out MCHS is not against dual-credit courses and said the high school has asked Western Kentucky University about sending teachers to the high school to teach dual-credit courses, but the university didn’t have any teachers they could send.

“We’ve asked them to do that but I guess they didn’t have any takers,” Bell said, adding  MCHS is always open to WKU teachers coming to the high school to teach dual-credit classes.

MCHS students who take AP English do so through Campbellsville University, said Ron Hurley, director of curriculum and instruction for learning and School Improvement Grant coordinator.

“All AP classes are taught on campus as well as dual-credit classes by MCHS faculty that have received special training in teaching AP classes,” said Hurley. “Juniors and seniors may also go to the WKU campus in Glasgow to take college courses and also get high school credit as well as college credit.”

AP classes are free if students pass the exams at the end of the classes, whereas with dual-credit courses students don’t receive any reimbursement for passing the classes, Bell said.

“Research shows students who take and pass AP courses are more likely to go on to college or technical school, stay and succeed,” she said.

Students who take AP classes also tend to do better on the ACT exam.

“I think rigor is the key to it,” said Bennie Stephens, director of assessment and accountability. “The rigor of the AP is more like the rigor of the ACT.”

Students who take AP classes also tend to graduate from college in four years and taking the classes can help students qualify for scholarships. Approximately 31 percent of colleges and universities look at AP experience when determining scholarships, the College Board of Inspiring Minds’ website stated.

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