TELLURIDE – The Telluride School District was one of 477 districts in the United States and Canada recognized by College Board’s Advanced Placement District Honor Roll this year. The College Board honored the district for increasing access to Advanced Placement course work while simultaneously maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning scores of three or higher on AP Exams. Scores on these tests range from one to five.
Created by the College Board, AP courses offer college-level curriculum and examinations to students in the United States and Canada. American colleges often grant placement and college credit to students who score well on the examinations.
Since 2011, Telluride High School has increased its number of AP-level courses, resulting in an increase in the number of students enrolled in AP classes. In 2013, 73 percent of THS AP students earned a three or above, compared with 52 percent of students earning the same grade in 2011.
In 2013, every THS AP psychology student earned a three or better on the exam, and all but one AP statistics student earned a three or higher.
“Making these courses available increases enrollment,” THS Principal Mike Conran said this week. “I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that colleges look favorably on the students if they have the flavor of college academic rigor under their belts. But I also think these students display a sheer interest in, say, AP environmental science. Our students don’t shy away from academic rigor.
“Our goal is to provide an appropriately rigorous curriculum to all students,” he said, “maximizing their potential…. Although Telluride High School is a college preparatory institution, we are as dedicated to our students’ social, emotional and physical growth as we are their academic performance and/or success,” he added.
THS teacher David Lavender, who teaches 80 students in his AP English and Literature class, said there are potentially huge benefits for students enrolled in AP classes. “Lots of students who have completed AP courses in high school compete for internships and sophomore-level classes when they go off to college,” said Lavender, adding that many of the students leverage their enrollment in the courses, and their test scores, in their bids for acceptance at competitive colleges or universities.
While part of the rise in AP enrollment and test scores can be attributed to students wanting to be more competitive in applying for higher education, Lavender said the increase is linked to a genuine thirst for knowledge among THS students.
“Lots of students aspire to a higher education, and because we’re offering more AP-level courses, they’re attending them, and they’re doing better,” he said.
Students from smaller communities across Colorado have benefited from THS’s increase in AP courses offered. This year, Lavender began teaching an AP literature class via a distance-learning network, to students in Mancos, Lake City and Brush, who participate in the class and receive academic credit via teleconferencing.
Lavender’s classroom features a large television display with a camera, allowing the students to see and hear one another.
“We’ll have one student in Lake City reading the part of Ophelia, and another student here in Telluride playing Hamlet,” he said. “It’s great.”
“This is truly bringing the strength of our teachers to other districts, which are often too small to be able to offer AP coursework,” said Telluride School District Superintendent Michael Schumacher. “I am proud of the work our excellent teachers do, and the incredible work our students do to score so remarkably well.”
And the school will offer more AP classes in the coming academic year.
“We’re looking to teach AP Spanish, biology and physics,” Conran said, adding that many of these classes – from biology to physics and environmental sciences – cannot be offered in the same academic year, due to the small size of the student body and to the number of THS teachers certified to teach AP-level courses.
This year, the school offers AP environmental science classes; next year, it will offer AP biology. Most students enrolled in these classes, Conran said, are juniors and seniors. “So,” he said, “for example, a junior can take AP environmental science this year, and then take AP biology their senior year.”