AP Awards

In 2015, Douglas County Schools received a number of prestigious awards for its Advanced Placement program. Most high schools were named AP Honor Schools by the GA DoE. And the entire district was named an AP Honor District by the College Board (the non-profit entity that runs the AP program) Any commendation for the system’s Advanced Placement program is undermined by the extremely low performance on AP exams across the system.

AP Honor Schools –

This recognition has nothing to do with student achievement on AP Exams, but is solely based on the number of different subjects students take exams in.  Of course, exams are attached to courses, so the ‘honor’ is granted simply for offering courses.

One type of Honor School is a STEM Honor School. This recognition is based on number of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) courses offered at the school: AP STEM Schools are schools with students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses (AP Calculus AB, AP Statistics, AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics, AP Computer Science). How are students in these courses actually doing on AP Exams?

The STEM courses offered at DCSS high schools in 2015 were Calculus, Statistics, Biology, and Environmental Science. Here are the exam averages (with failure rates in parenthesis) for each subject compared with the state and global averages.

Calculus

Alexander               1.4 (85%)
Chapel Hill             2.1 (70)
Douglas County     1.1  (100)
Lithia Springs        1.3 (91)
New Manchester   1.3 (83)
State                         2.6 (49)
Global                      2.9 (42)

Statistics

Chapel Hill             1.2 (100%)
Douglas County     1.6  (93)
State                         2.7 (34)
Global                      2.8 (34)

Biology

Alexander                2.3 (36%)
Chapel Hill              2.4 (60)
Douglas County     2.0  (75)
Lithia Springs         2.0 (77)
State                          2.9 (36)
Global                       2.9 (35)

Environmental Science

Chapel Hill             1.2  (70)
Douglas County     1.2 (100)
Lithia Springs        1.4 (91)
State                         2.6 (100)
Global                      2.6 (94)

Physics

Alexander               1.3 (90%)
Chapel Hill             1.2 (100)
Lithia Springs        1.4 (100)
New Manchester   1.4 (100)
State                         2.6 (61)
Global                      2.9 (61)

To put these scores in perspective, the lowest score is a 1, the highest is a 5. A student can get every question wrong and still get a 1.  Passing is a 3, but many colleges 0nly give credit for a 4 or a 5. Because the scale is 1-5, one point below the average translates to 20% lower.

The majority of students in these STEM courses are scoring a 1, the same score anyone could get even if they had not taken the course!

Another type of “honor school” is an AP Humanities School. These are schools with students testing in all of the following AP courses: at least one ELA course, two social science courses, one fine arts course and one world language course

There are too many different humanities courses to list scores here.  Out of 26 different courses, 25 had exam averages below the State average.  And in AP Government, the failure rate ranged from 88% to 100% (offered at 4 high schools)

AP District Honor –
This award is given for increasing enrollment while at the same time increasing or maintaining passing rates of 3 or above. The reference point was the scores for 2013. In 2013, the failure rate plummeted to 84% (though the number of exams taken increased sharply by 80%). By 2015, the failure rate ‘improved’ to 77%, but this compares to a statewide failure rate of 44%. When you hit the bottom, there is nowhere to go but up!

In other words, the District got this award because they tanked the AP program from 2011 to 2013.  Two years later, they are celebrating their increases.

Douglas County was one of two districts in Georgia to get this prestigious award. If this is all you know, you would think that our district has a very healthy AP program, when in fact the mode (most frequent) score on exams in 2015 at 4 of 5 high school was a 1 – the lowest possible score!

AP exam scores are used as a key indicator of college readiness. One has to conclude from these numbers that the majority of even our top students are not college ready.