Advanced Placement Preparing Students to Finish Strong

Students at Affton High School are earning college credit while taking high school courses through the Advanced Placement (AP) program, and May marks the capstone objective for these young scholars: score a 3 or above on their AP exam.

Administered by the College Board, the AP program allows students to take an exam at the conclusion of an AP course. The AP score, based on a 5-point scale, is a measure of a student’s achievement in a college-level AP course, and is used by colleges and universities to determine if they will grant credit for what a student’s already learned, or allow a student to skip the equivalent course once they get to college (this is known as advanced placement).

The benefits of taking an AP class are simply undeniable. Aside from earning college credit and being able to potentially skip introductory courses, students that take AP classes and exams are also more prepared for college. They develop appropriate study habits and work ethic required for college-level classes.

AP-Honor-Roll-2014-15At Affton High School, students are able to take a variety of AP courses including Psychology, Calculus AB & BC, English Literature, Physics, U.S. History, Biology, U.S. Government and Politics, English Language and Statistics. In fact, Affton School District is one of 547 school districts in the U.S. and Canada and one of only eight districts in Missouri that was honored by the College Board with placement on the 5th Annual Advanced Placement (AP) District Honor Roll.

Is Advanced Placement for you or your student? Does it really help you in college? Read on for testimonials from Affton High School teachers and alumni:

Daniel Polokonis, math teacher – AP Calculus AB & BC
In high school, I took and earned credit for seven AP tests (AP Physics B, AP US History, AP Language and Composition, AP Chemistry, AP Calculus BC, AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics), and this, in addition to a few dual-credit courses I took, allowed me to enter college with 55 hours of credit.  As a result, I was able to graduate in two and a half years, which allowed me to begin my teaching career at Mizzou at the age of 20.  AP courses are rigorous, and they provide an excellent opportunity for both advanced credit and preparation for more advanced courses.  I have benefited greatly from this very inexpensive way to earn college credit.  At Affton, it is so important for students to have these opportunities as well.  As inexpensive as AP exams are when compared with college tuition, the cost may still be prohibitive for some of our students.  We are so fortunate to have the assistance of the Affton Education Foundation in making these exams accessible to all students.

Jessica Castellanos (Class of 2014) – Northwestern University
The AP Politics Class Project of proposing a policy change to the Affton School Board of Education really helped us learn how to do work independently and in the real world.  Also, Mr. Jenning’s AP English taught me how to think critically, which is pretty much what college is about.

Jane Bohn, counselor
Having the Affton Education Foundation provide grants for our students has had a huge impact on how many AP exams students can take. Some students take three or more exams, and having a few at half price or even free can save students more than $100. The AP exam fee has gone up every year for the past few years and is now almost $100 per test. Without the AEF grants we would have fewer students taking multiple exams. Thank you, AEF!

Brian Esselman, social studies teacher – AP U.S. History
Advanced Placement is one of the few programs that measures our students against a national and international standard and for that reason, we must be adamant about getting our young adults to compete globally.  When a student pulls off a 4 or 5 on an individual test, there is a pride there that is priceless in terms of the confidence it builds.  Affton has always been capable of great things and thanks to programs like AP we are in a better position than ever to prove that to the nation, the local community and above all, to ourselves!

Mackenzie Bernard (Class of 2014) – Truman State University
I’m an English major because of the AP English classes I had the opportunity to take with Mr. Jennings.  Collectively, he set the bar higher than I ever thought I could reach, and every single time I somehow did, he set it even higher.  Mr. Jennings expected more out of me than I knew I was capable of, and his mentorship is reflective of the standards of every AP teachers I had at Affton.  I’m succeeding in my first year of college because AP classes like his taught me how to think critically, to be undaunted by academic challenge, and to gladly attempt to possess the scholastic dedication my AP teachers embraced.

Brian Jennings, English language arts teacher – AP English Literature
Since the AEF began awarding a $1,000 grant to offset the costs of the AP exam, students have been able to take the exam for approximately half the regular cost.  This has also greatly contributed to the growth of students taking the exam to 6 times the number of students taking the exam eight years ago.  The funding from the AEF provides a great incentive for students to register for and take the exam and their assistance has been vital in increasing the opportunities for our students.

Why is AP important?  The AP exam is recognized as the most rigorous set of national exams high school students may take.  Urging students to take the exams is a vital part of showing them and our community that our students are able to excel at the highest level.

Jessica Reed (Class of 2014) – Princeton University
My AP classes have made my transition from public high school to the Ivies manageable. Each one of my APs prepared me in some aspect for what I was expected to do as a college student.

My biology classes taught me the pure power of memorization and hard work in tackling scientific classes and problems in general. AP Bio in particular prepared me for the amount of information I was going to have to take on in my first science class at Princeton.

My AP U.S. History class taught me how to synthesize material, a valuable skill that many other classes never ever looked at. The final project between AP U.S. History and AP English Language forced me to take a step back and look at a bigger picture, and then put information back together again on a smaller scale. This combination of the micro versus the macro is something I am constantly asked to do at school. I am asked to find the bigger picture and then explain it.

This critical thinking aspect leads me to the benefits of my AP Language and AP Literature classes. If there is one thing Jennings taught me in these classes it was how to think critically, and for myself. These AP classes transformed my writing in ways that I do not think other English students get the luxury of knowing.

My AP Government class my senior year forced me to be a creative problem solver. We had to look outside the box to solve and work with a real world problem with real world people. This was not a project for high school students but a project that aimed to make me into a college student.

All in all if I had not had AP classes in high school I highly doubt I would be at the institution I am at today. AP classes, when approached with a positive attitude and good work ethic, can push students from regurgitation to critical thinking. I am so thankful for the opportunities afforded to me at Affton and I would not change one thing about my high school education.