, Salem, MA


October 19, 2012

Our view: Encouraging AP scores in Salem

Challenge bright students, and they will respond.

How else to interpret the results of the latest round of Advanced Placement testing at Salem High School?

The AP tests aren’t easy — they are considered the equivalent of college-level work, and passing the exams comes after a semester or two of consistent study and preparation. There is no “gentleman’s C” here. You do the work, and you either know the material or you don’t.

Salem students are showing they are up to the challenge. Last year, the school had 126 qualifying scores of 3 or higher (scores go from 1-5; scores above 3 often count toward college credits) on AP tests in math, science and English. That’s up from 42 qualifying scores in 2010.

Salem High, which has also seen a jump in the number of students taking on the challenge of AP courses, beat state and national averages in the percentage of top scores.

“You should be thrilled and proud of what you have done,” state Rep. John Keenan told students gathered at the high school earlier this week. “Salem is outperforming the state and, quite frankly, outperforming the country.”

The success comes after help from a new program, the Mass Math + Science Initiative. MSSI provides training for teachers in a one-week summer institute and tutors students through three Saturday sessions. There’s cash involved, too: Students and teachers each get $100 for a qualifying score. (Locally, Peabody High, Danvers High and Salem Academy Charter School also participate in the program.)

The scores are good news for a school district still working to overcome a designation as a Level 4 district in danger of state takeover, based on low scores in the statewide MCAS exams.

The improvement in AP testing crosses over to other areas, one student noted in a column on these pages by MSSI President Morton Orlov earlier this year.

“I improved in all of my skills, which helps in all my courses, not just my AP English,” Jacqueline Carvalho said.

Hard work paying off. Encouraging news indeed.

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