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Mariner High School students continue to shine in AP testing

By Staff | Jul 26, 2011

Mariner High School students continued to shine in the Advanced Placement courses last year showing improved test scores.
Mariner High School Assistant Principal Kimberly Verblaauw said last year Mariner High School had 309 students take 566 AP exams, which is the most AP students and exams taken in five years.
The scores have also increased from the previous year for students who received three points or higher on their test, which is needed to pass. The students who earned a passing score or higher increased from 39.9 percent in 2009-2010 to 48.5 percent during the 2010-2011 school year.
Verblaauw said last year they had two students pass the AP biology test without taking the course. She said the students studied with a biology teacher before they took the exam.
“One of the students was a freshman,” she said, “which is pretty awesome.”
Although students do not have to take the AP course to take the test, Verblaauw said it is very rare when a student decides to do it that way.
Awards were presented to Mariner High students for their accomplishments last year on their test scores. Twenty-two students earned an AP Scholar award, while Aleksander Ferlazzo earned an AP Scholar with Distinction award.
Ferlazzo was honored after earning an average AP score of 3.5 out of 5.0 on all exams taken, along with earning scores of three or higher on five or more exams.
There are many factors Verblaauw believes contributes to the student success rate, which includes block scheduling.
“The students can go deeper into conversation and questioning in an 88-minute block,” she said. “When you are really trying to get the kids to answer the questions and guide them, you can get into more discussions and debate as far as AP and higher level of questioning goes.”
A survey was given to staff and students to determine if they want to keep block scheduling for this year, which they preferred, so it will continue to be implemented again for the 2011-2012 school year.
Another area that contributes to the students’ success rate includes the training teachers receive for AP courses.
Verblaauw said AP teachers have received an ample amount of training that has benefited the students learning.
“The AP training is phenomenal,” she said.
AP teachers were paired up with other teachers in the district, Verblaauw said, who had better success rates, which gave teachers new insight into what to apply in their classrooms to help the students.
“Finding the teacher that understands AP and understands the rigor of AP is helpful,” she said.
The number of courses Verblaauw said also helps the success rate for students.
“It opens the doors for kids that are ready for the academic rigor (courses),” she said.
Last year Mariner High School offered 18 AP courses to its students, which included AP chemistry as a new course. This year the school will be adding the course AP physics, which again increased the number of courses students have to choose from.
One of Mariner High School’s AP course strengths is world history.
Verblaauw said out of the 26 students who took the exam, 20 passed it last year. The average test score from the 26 students was a 3.35, which was higher than the Florida average of 2.14 and the national average at 2.57.
Last year, the students who took the world history course wrote 70 essays as sophomores, which Verblaauw said improved their passing rate on the exam.
Another AP course favorite is studio arts. She said out of the 29 students who took the exam, 28 passed.
AP Spanish language and psychology are also strong subject areas at Mariner High.
Verblaauw said the nice thing about the AP program is even if students do not pass the exam, they are still being exposed to AP level courses that will help prepare them for college courses.
“It helps them be more prepared for college,” she said. “It is an important part of AP.”
Verblaauw said they do not believe in holding back students who want to try the college level course. Even if the student receives a two on their test, she said the likelihood of success for them in a college course increases.
Every year a syllabus has to be submitted to the College Board for approval for the upcoming school year.
Verblaauw said teachers who taught the same AP subjects in the district got together to work on the syllabus this year.
“That is extremely beneficial,” she said because you have more teachers working together to create the syllabus.
Verblaauw said they will now look at AP scores as a district to see which teachers had a high success rate.
Teachers can “share their best practices of what they are doing in the classroom to get that pass rate,” she said.
Freshman, sophomore, junior and senior students have selected 797 various AP courses to take for the upcoming school year that begins on Aug. 8. Verblaauw said that number includes students who are taking multiple AP classes.
She said the majority of the AP courses requires the completion of a summer assignment that is due on the first day of school.
“When you set high expectations, they rise to the occasion,” Verblaauw said about the students, “which is awesome to see.”