Ferndale recognized for AP offerings, achievement

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published December 30, 2015

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FERNDALE — With a larger focus on preparing students for college, the Ferndale School District in early December was one of 15 Michigan school districts to be named to the sixth annual AP Honor Roll.

The distinction honors school districts across the country that have improved access to Advanced Placement courses in the district and increased the number of students who earned a 3 or higher on AP exams. AP exams are scored 1-5, with 5 being the best score.

The award is handed out by the College Board.

“I think in prior years the district was more selective, so we have tried to open up access to AP courses,” Ferndale Superintendent Blake Prewitt said. “When you look at our history and the achievement gap, a lot of (the gap) happened because of a lack of access and students not knowing they could take something. So we have widened the access to classes and have teachers talking with students on what they can do.

“What this award shows us is when you open access and invite more kids to AP, you see increased achievement.”

According to the College Board, the 425 school districts that received this distinction nationwide were able to better identify students who would benefit from AP classes from 2013 to 2015.

Sarah Thaler, the director of SAT implementation for Michigan with the College Board, said that by opening access to AP classes, it increases the success rate of more students.

“If a student gets a 3 or higher on an AP exam, they could potentially earn college credit in high school, and that is great because they pay less when in college,” Thaler said. “And not only do they have the opportunity to take more rigorous course work, but data shows those who take AP classes do better in college and graduate on time. These courses give students the boost they need and access to courses they will see at the next level.”

In offering AP courses, districts can implement as many or as few as they feel they can handle. Thaler said some smaller districts may offer only one AP course, but a district like Ferndale is able to offer around 20 AP courses that range from history to math and art.

“Part of (the AP Honor Roll) is to commend the schools who increase participation, but also students who are successful in the AP classes they have,” Thaler said. “It shows the dedication of the staff and teachers and administration for supporting their students to be successful in more rigorous courses. It takes a lot of commitment from the superintendent, school board, teachers, students and parents, and we commend the Ferndale Schools.”

During the 2014-15 school year, the Ferndale School District began offering the Secondary Honors Program, which helps prepare students for college by providing them with new cultural experiences and access to college recruiters.

To be eligible for the program, students need to have taken and passed five different AP exams by the time they are ready to graduate, which earns them the AP International Diploma.

AP classes, Prewitt said, offer a more structured curriculum that separates them from other honors courses.

“Honors courses in each district may be different, but with AP, all teachers receive College Board AP training, so AP at Ferndale is the same as Birmingham or a school out in California,” he said. “The whole purpose of AP classes is to help all students achieve.”

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