Alex Jaffurs

Alex Jaffurs, public schools’ assessment and accountability officer

Three out of four students are passing Advanced Placement tests, according to St. Mary’s school officials.

Alex Jaffurs, the public school system’s assessment and accountability officer, showed the school board on Wednesday that St. Mary’s students excelled in AP tests.

While praising the students’ performance, school board members and the superintendent noted the results do not mirror state standardized test scores.

St. Mary’s vs. the world

Jaffurs said enrollment in AP classes have increased. Last school year, 3,201 students were enrolled, but only 2,829 were taking AP classes the year prior. A little over half of students around the world who took AP tests passed last school year, according to Jaffurs’ presentation, compared to 65.7% who passed in Maryland and 75% who passed in St. Mary’s.

“We’re better than Maryland and the world,” Superintendent Scott Smith said about the test results. “Take that, Finland,” he said, referring to the country that often is touted for its education system.

The tests are scored 1 through 5 with 3, 4 and 5 considered passing.

MCAP comparisons

In a previous presentation, Jaffurs highlighted St. Mary’s Maryland Comprehensive Assessment Program, or MCAP scores, which are given in English and math classes to students in grades 3 through 8, and some high schoolers. Unlike the AP test, only a 4 and 5 are considered passing. Although St. Mary’s MCAP scores were consistently higher than the state’s, the English/language arts pass rates were between 44% and 57%, while the St. Mary’s math pass rates were between 22% and 49%.

Smith said the Maryland Department of Education should allow a 3 to also be considered passing. “I had kids who got 3s, and I didn’t like to think they weren’t meeting expectations,” he said. A level 3 score means “approaching expectations,” while level 4 means “met expectations” and a level 5 means “exceeding expectations.”

Smith suggested the state should scratch grading by number and adopt grading by letter — A, B, C, D or F.

High school, high scores

A breakdown by high schools shows Chopticon High School AP students increased in enrollment and passing percentage for the past few years. Only 40% were earning a score of three or higher in 2014. Five years later, nearly three out of four AP Chopticon students proved to be proficient.

Jaffurs also noted there were five AP courses that had 100% passing rates.

Although the passing percentage of Great Mills High AP students dropped from 74 last year to 70 this year, the Hornets produced the highest number of AP students the school has in the past five years. Also, each of the 13 students who took the “Physics C: Mechanics” scored a 5.

“And that’s an extraordinarily hard test,” Jaffurs said.

Leonardtown High had the highest passing percentage of the three high schools at 81%. Also, there were six AP courses at Leonardtown where each student passed.

Jaffurs said students will have the option to take the AP test in November rather than in March because underrepresented students could be more “serious,” “engaged” and “committed” in the fall.

Schoo board member Jim Davis asked Jaffurs if there is data for students who take the AP test and get into top schools. “Absolutely,” Jaffurs answered. “This data is helping them get into top-tier, top-flight schools with scholarships across the country.” Passing an AP test can also earn students college credit.

Karin Bailey, the school board chair, said an official at a Division I college she visited with her daughter told them participating in dual enrollment with a college was just as important, if not more, as taking AP courses.

Cathy Allen, vice chair of the school board, said people assume the AP tests are only for students looking to attend college. “It’s more than that,” she said, adding that it could be for someone aspiring to be an electrician or an electrical engineer. “I hope we’re expressing that to our teachers.”

Twitter: @KristenEntNews

Twitter: @KristenEntNews