Amanda Umphrey describes a careful start to the relationship between Springville High School and its new Advanced Placement program.
Umphrey, now AP coordinator at Springville and in her 10th year at the school, said timing hadn’t been right earlier for introducing AP. A step in that direction was teachers taking note that ACT scores of students at their school were higher than at other St. Clair County High Schools.
At about the same time, students and parents began asking why Springville didn’t offer AP courses, as other district schools did.
As teachers and administrators began to talk about adding AP courses, one teacher convinced the board of education to provide funding to offer an AP Statistics course for the 2014-2015 school year. Twenty-three students enrolled, and four of those achieved a qualifying score – one that can merit college credit — on the AP exam.
Also in the 2014-2015 school year, Springville High School had the highest ACT scores of any of the five high schools in St. Clair County. Nineteen percent of Springville’s juniors reached the ACT benchmark in all four subjects on the ACT, compared with 13% in all of St. Clair County’s schools, and only 12% in all of Alabama’s public schools.
Umphrey was a part of the team that year which successfully applied to become a part of the A+ College Ready Initiative (A+CR) for the 2015-2016 school year. A+ CR is the public-private partnership that provides funding for teacher training, classroom materials, and pays for part of the AP exam.
“At the end of the day, the number one reason we are here is for the students, and to give them as many opportunities as possible to be college- and career-ready” Umphrey said.
Umphrey acknowledges that initially many teachers were unsure as to whether introducing AP courses was the right thing to do for Springville’s students. But after learning last year they had been accepted to A+CR, “Teachers were all in,” she said. Teachers volunteered to go to required training last summer, with all costs covered by A+CR.
Then they went to work drumming up interest among students. They held a meeting in January of 2015, and parents and students responded enthusiastically.
Counselors worked with families to enroll students in one (or more) of eight AP courses this school year — Art History, Statistics, Biology, Calculus AB, Chemistry, English Language and Composition, English Literature and Composition, and Physics 1.
As a result, 108 Springville students enrolled in AP classes.
Umphrey said the goal is to have 30 qualifying scores on the AP exams. Students are required to take the exam, which costs $92. A+CR provides funding for half of the exam cost, and waivers are available for students who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals. AP exams were given over the past two weeks, but scores won’t be known until mid-summer. Next year, Springville will add Government and Computer Science Principles to the AP course roster.
Ashland and Ragland High Schools in St. Clair County were also accepted into the A+CR cohort for 2015-1016. Each school offered four AP courses this year.
Umphrey stressed that there would have been no way for Springville to bring this opportunity to their students without A+CR’s help. “It’s been tremendous,” she said, referring to the training, adding that not only is training for teachers provided, but money to buy the materials needed for students is also included.
Asked how teachers feel with a full year of AP under their belt, Umphrey said teachers are excited to attend training again this summer. One teacher told her that he now has a better understanding of what he needs to do to better teach the material to students.
“It’s been very positive,” Umphrey said, adding, “parents have been very supportive.”