- Associated Press - Friday, January 31, 2014

NORTH COURTLAND, Ala. (AP) - Feedback on DeWayne Key’s advanced placement chemistry class includes comments from students like this:

“Your course is the toughest I have by far.”

But Key, a teacher at R.A. Hubbard, thinks such comments about the college prep course are a positive sign.

“All of the students I have in my class are aware it is very rigorous. It’s an adjustment for all of them to be thrust into a course that is really demanding,” he said. “They’ve responded quite well.”

Key’s experience is echoed throughout Lawrence County schools, which added 13 AP courses this year. About 200 students have signed up for AP courses, most taking more than one, Assistant Superintendent Johnny Yates said.

Numbers show most students are sticking with the more challenging classes. Enrollment in AP courses has grown, not dwindled, since the school year began.

The system dropped AP classes in 2009 after back-to-back years of proration.

Hatton teacher Lori Crumpton, who is instructing AP Language for the first time, said the English course requires extra training and planning. But Crumpton’s students are up for the task.

“Most of my students, they are the ones that are involved in several extracurricular activities. Several of them take more than one AP class, so they are spread pretty thin,” she said. “They realize that they are going to have to dedicate more time to their studies and be more self-disciplined.”

The AP Language course emphasizes essay crafting, writing styles and rhetoric.

“They realize it is a college-level course, so they realize they may not make an A in this class, even though they’ve always made an A in English,” she said.

Passing the end-of-year AP test saves a three-hour college credit at state universities - which cost about $1,800 on average - and helps students qualify for college scholarships, Superintendent Heath Grimes said.

Kasey Blankenship, who teaches three periods of AP Chemistry at Lawrence County High, said her students have developed better study habits and more confidence.

“It’s a new way of thinking for everyone, but I definitely think our students are up for the challenge,” she said.

Blankenship is new to AP after teaching eighth-grade science at Moulton Middle last year.

“It’s been a new experience for me,” she said. “I cannot give the students a problem without working it out myself.”

Hatton Principal Brent Gillespie said the additional AP classes are part of an effort to help prepare students for college.

“Our job is to prepare kids for what’s next. Hopefully they’re getting a lot of the college-style curriculum in our high school environment,” he said.

Yates said teachers and faculty recruited students early and opted-in students with high standardized test scores. Students wanting to drop out of classes are required to get approval from several administrators, including the superintendent.

The school board has monitored students’ ACT scores before and after enrolling in AP and found students in AP classes have higher scores on average, Yates said.

“On average, depending on subjects, they are gaining one to two points,” Yates said. “We’re excited about where our curriculum is in our AP courses.”

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