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Iowa City high schools see increase in advanced-placement classes

BY LAUREN COFFEY | SEPTEMBER 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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The number of high school students taking advanced-placement courses in the Iowa City School District has skyrocketed in one year, bringing ACT scores along for the ride.

The district high schools currently have the highest ACT score in the past 26 years, averaging a 25. And officials say this may have to do with the amount of students taking advanced-placement classes.

City High School has gone from having around 500 students enrolled in advanced-placement classes last year, to approximately 800 students taking classes this year.

“I believe that by challenging themselves by high academic classes, they will be well prepared,” City High Principal John Bacon said during an interview with Daily Iowan TV.

West High School has also seen an increase in student participation in rigorous classes, with half of the student body taking the most rigorous courses available to them.

“Most of the kids who come to school are very understanding of the importance of doing well in high school, and what that means to their life after high school,” said West High School Principal Jerry Arganbright in an interview with DITV.

Teachers and students alike have noticed the influx of students taking advanced placement courses.

“I think the combination of students in the classroom and the curriculum lead to a better learning environment,” City High School senior Renata Stewart said. “I have noticed that for the advanced-placement English last year they only had one section, and this year they have three, so that’s a big jump.”

“I think there’s been a push in general to take advanced-placement level courses,” said City High School advanced-placement U.S. history teacher Mitch Gross. “I tell students that if they want to go to a four year college, advanced-placement classes will help with learning content, study skills and writing skills for their freshman year [in college].”

Superintendent Steve Murley attributes the success less to the curriculum and more to the school community in general.

“The high ACT scores are directly attributable to the outstanding teachers, kindergarten through 12 grade, who help our students meet and exceed their academic potential,” Murley said.

Although the classes may help with ACT scores and prepare students for college, UI officials said the number of advanced-placement classes a student takes does not go into consideration when admitting students.

Admissions follow an RAI score made up of a student’s ACT/SAT score, the high school class rank, high school GPA and the number of core classes a student takes.

“For every point you get on the ACT you get two points towards the index,” Michael Barron, director of admissions, said. “For every whole course you complete you get five points [towards the RAI score]. It may be faulty math, but the courses you take could be seen as more important [than an ACT score.]”

Most students take advanced-placement courses to help prepare them for college, as well as a way to save money.

“I think [taking advanced-placement classes is] appealing because you can pass if you get good scores and take classes next year you may not have room for otherwise,” Stewart said. “I try to challenge myself as much as possible.”


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