After ranking last for students taking AP classes, ND tries to make the grade
BISMARCK - North Dakota is launching efforts to move the state from the back of the class when it comes to students participating in advanced placement courses and to reduce the need for remedial coursework in college.
BISMARCK – North Dakota is launching efforts to move the state from the back of the class when it comes to students participating in advanced placement courses and to reduce the need for remedial coursework in college.
The state ranked behind all other 49 states and the District of Columbia in the number of AP courses taken per 1,000 high school juniors and seniors during the 2013-14 school year, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler said Tuesday.
“In this booming economy, and the No. 1 rankings that North Dakota continually gets on our Gallup polls, I do not want to see 51st in anything, especially education,” she told lawmakers from several states attending the Midwestern Legislative Conference’s annual meeting at the Bismarck Event Center.
North Dakota’s class of 2013 also ranked 49th in the percentage of students who passed an AP exam during high school, at 9.1 percent, and 50th in students who took an AP exam in high school, at 14.9 percent.
More than 40 percent of first-year college students in the North Dakota University System require remedial coursework in math, English, or both, Baesler said.
Her “Leveraging the Senior Year” initiative aims to boost participation in AP classes and target more intense instruction at seniors who may not be prepared for college or a technical career.
Baesler and Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, the current Midwestern Legislative Conference chairman and provost of the Tri-College University in Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., stressed the need to reverse the “senior slide,” the tradition of students taking a lighter class load so they can coast through their final year of high school.
Flakoll noted that North Dakota sophomores had the heaviest average load during this past school year, at 6.3 credits, while juniors averaged 6.11 credits and seniors averaged 5.73 credits.
“I don’t want them to have a nice, easy senior year. Nice, easy senior years translate into remediation that costs them and their parents and their families and taxpayers a lot of money,” he said.
Making better use of students’ senior year can shorten college completion times, reduce student debt by thousands of dollars and get people in the workforce faster, he said.
About 20 of the state’s 179 public school districts are close to college campuses and have the opportunity for dual enrollment or AP classes, Baesler said. But the other 159 districts have only one teacher each for English, math and science in grades 7-12, and dual enrollment and AP opportunities are limited, she said.
State lawmakers voted in April to spend about $1.75 million to provide both rural and large schools with the MyFoundationsLab instructional program and to expand AP class opportunities.
Only 19 of North Dakota’s 179 schools offered AP courses last year, including Dickinson, Fargo, Grand Forks, Jamestown and West Fargo, along with the Catholic schools in Bismarck and Fargo, according to Department of Public Instruction data.
North Dakota students who take AP exams do well, ranking fifth in the nation with a pass rate of nearly 69 percent among juniors and seniors in 2013-14, Baesler said.
“We just need to get them to take it,” she said.
Details are still being worked out, but part of the state funding will be used to reimburse students who pass AP exams for the $91 cost of the exam, and for scholarships for a graduating senior from each county who has passed an AP exam, Baesler said.
Money also will go toward teacher training in AP classes, the cost of online AP courses and extra pay for teachers who already have a full load to teach AP courses, Baesler said.
Training will take place for current AP teachers this fall and for new AP teachers in summer 2016, with full implementation of expanded AP offerings slated for 2016-17, Baesler said.