The school had 511 students take at least one AP exam last spring—a 21-percent increase over 2012.
Unlike most schools, which use testing such as the Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) to place students in AP classes, Lipman has instituted an open-door policy at ACHS.
“We eliminated all requirements for AP,” Lipman said. “If you aspire to take a rigorous class, you can take it. If you have a 2.5 to a 3.0 (GPA) and you still want to try it out, want the rigor, you can take it.”
If a student struggles, they can switch to the college prep class. But Lipman believes a certain kind of student is attracted to the demands an AP class brings, noting that these classes are designed to equate to a college course
“Some take (an AP class) to get better prepared for college. They just want to get the rigor, even if they get a C,” he said.
Camarillo High’s emphasis on its AP program ties into Lipman’s plan to align the school’s standards with those used by Newsweek magazine to determine its list of America’s Best High Schools.
“I feel that (Newsweek’s) criteria is academic and elite,” he said.
ACHS fell from No. 894 on the 2,000-school list in 2012 to No. 1,034 in 2013.
Oxnard Union High School District is also emphasizing AP courses to students throughout the district and wants to see more sophomores and even freshmen take the tests.
“Enrollment in higher-level courses such as Advanced Placement gives students the opportunity to learn about the expectations of college-level courses,” said Lisa Brown, director in the OUHSD office of curriculum and assessment. “More than 90 percent of colleges and universities across the country offer college credit for passing scores, which means saving money.”
Students who receive at least a3ona1to5scalecanreceive college credit for the subject. Although some private schools won’t give college credit for AP scores, the Cal State and University of California systems do.
Last year, Camarillo had 129 students earn one of four AP Scholar designations, including four National AP Scholars, which is given to students who average a 4 on all exams taken and receive a 4 or higher on a minimum of eight subject tests.
The number of students who are in AP classes and who pass exams is expected to be part of the formula for determining high school academic performance ratings when the STAR test is discontinued after this school year. The new rating system has not been fully determined, but Brown said it will include other factors, such as graduation rates and career and college readiness.
To boost student performance, OUHSD has contracted with Shmoop University, an online site where students can take practice tests not only for AP but also the SAT, ACT and the high school exit exam.
District students can sign up for a free Shmoop account at www.shmoop.com/signup/ouhsd. The password is “NONPOLAR.”
In addition to practice tests, students can also access thousands of drill problems and review guides for all AP topics.
Testing is from May 7 to 16, and the cost is $89 per exam.
The fee is $53 for students who are eligible for federal free or reduced-price lunches.
A federal fee reduction program is also available that allows students to pay $5 per test, but the college board website says the criteria to qualify won’t be available until the spring.