QCSD achieves AP District Honor Roll status for 4th year in a row

By Gary Weckselblatt

The Quakertown Community School District is once again being recognized by the College Board for continuing to make significant gains in student access and success on Advanced Placement tests.

QCSD is the only Bucks County District being honored by the College Board with placement on the Eighth Annual AP® District Honor Roll. It's one of 447 in the U.S. and Canada to receive the distinction. To continue to be recognized for this honor QCSD had to, every year since 2015, increase the number of students participating in AP while also increasing or maintaining the percentage of students earning AP Exam scores of 3 or higher. Reaching these goals shows that each year more highly motivated, academically prepared Quakertown students are ready for college level course work.

"We're thrilled with the results of our students for several reasons," QCSD Superintendent Bill Harner said. "Our primary goal is to make sure our students are college and career ready when they graduate. The overwhelming evidence of that achievement is their performance on a nationally recognized college level AP exam."

Harner praised the incredible efforts of teachers and students for the District's success and thanked parents and the community at large for supporting the School Board's college and career readiness initiatives.

Since the spring of 2014, the number of AP courses offered by the District has increased from 17 to 24, with two more -- German and Studio Art -- scheduled to be added next year. With 26 AP courses now available, every college bound student has a long list of courses options to ready themselves.

Over the past four years, student enrollment AP courses has grown by 50 percent, while at the same time number of exams taken and passed has nearly doubled. Part of those increases are due to the introduction of AP course options in ninth grade, where about 20 percent of Quakertown students are taking the college level course work. Once in college, research has found that AP students outperform their non-AP peers, according to a 2015 report "Are AP® Students More Likely to Graduate from College on Time?"

"I'm proud of our community once again for being named to the AP District Honor Roll," said high school English teacher Rachel Girman. "It showcases the hard work of our community, our administrators, our teachers, and especially our students for pushing each other to greater depths. As with many districts in the area, we have struggled with financial issues, but we have not let that compromise the education of our students. Making the AP Honor Roll again highlights that - we make it work, and we keep working for our students. They are why we come to work every day."

Girman said AP courses "offer a rigorous curriculum written by our great teachers, and those courses help students develop even stronger critical thinking skills, building off of what they've been taught before. We encourage students to challenge themselves, and we do everything in our power to help them succeed amid those challenges. It's not just the AP teachers - it's the whole K-12 staff working together to help students succeed in the world beyond high school. Participating in AP courses is definitely part of that success."

Trevor Packer, head of AP and Instruction for the College Board, said Honor Roll Districts like QCSD "are fostering a culture in their schools and classrooms that allows students to face new challenges and build the confidence to succeed."

Districts are experimenting with initiatives and strategies to see how they can expand access and improve student performance at the same time. "With a 34 percent of our student body on free or reduced lunch in 2017-18," Harner said, "we want to make sure the cost of an AP exam does not prevent students from taking and excelling on the exam, especially students taking multiple AP courses."

In 2018, with well over 150 Quakertown students expecting to take three or more exams, and an individual exam cost of $94, exam fees are problematic. So, the Board decided to reimburse parents for their students' successes. For every exam successfully passed, after the first exam, QCSD will reimburse parents. For AP exams taken last spring, Quakertown parents were reimbursed $20,782.

A student attending Penn State University's main campus could save approximately $750 on a three-credit course, or $1,000 on a four-credit course. Those numbers would double and triple if a student passed two or three AP exams and Penn State accepted the test scores.

In 2017, more than 4,000 colleges and universities around the world received AP scores for college credit, advanced placement, or both, and/or consideration in the admissions process. Inclusion in the Eighth Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on a review of three years of AP data, from 2015 to 2017, looking across 38 AP Exams, including world language and culture. The following criteria were used.

Districts must:

  • Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6 percent in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts;
  • Increased or maintained the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students taking exams and increased or maintained the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students scoring 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam; and
  • Improve or maintain performance levels when comparing the 2017 percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher to the 2015 percentage, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70 percent of its AP students earn a 3 or higher.

The complete Eighth Annual AP District Honor Roll can be found here.

Gary Weckselblatt, director of communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or gweckselblatt@qcsd.org.

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