Two more Limestone County schools have decided to better prepare their students for the future by enrolling in A+ College Ready, a program that helps schools and districts offer more Advanced Placement courses and prepare more Alabama students for the rigors of college.

During the 2017-2018 school year, both Clements and Tanner High School noticed how successful the program was at the other four high schools in the district and decided it was time to give their students the same academic edge.

After all, schools who have adopted A+ College Ready programs are reporting major gains. According to a brochure published by the college-readiness program, Alabama has ranked No. 1 in the nation since the program was founded in 2008 for percent increase in qualifying scores in AP math, science and English exams.

After one year in the three-year progressive program, 132 Alabama high schools showed an average of 105-percent increase in AP qualifying scores, or 17 times the national average. Since its founding until 2016, the number of Alabama students taking AP exams has quadrupled and students in the program have potentially earned three hours of college credit, saving an average of $1,806 per course.

Thanks to A+ College Ready, more Alabama students than ever are college bound and will successfully complete a four-year degree on time.

It was for these reasons that Tanner and Clements High School leaders jumped through the proper hoops to get A+ College Ready in their classrooms. Aside from undergoing a competitive selection process that requires schools to submit an application to A+ College Ready in early October, teachers have to be willing to go through a weeklong training program over the summer to prepare them for the rigors of teaching A+ College classes, often referred to as pre-AP or “Laying the Foundation” courses.

“A+ trains teachers a certain way subjects should be taught to get students to think critically and to get them ready for the rigors of AP course work,” Thomas Young, a guidance counselor at Clements High School, said. “Students who take the LTF courses are better prepared for the writing and thinking required in AP classes.”

Currently, Clements only offers students one AP course in history. With the support of A+ College Ready, they will add LTF courses in the core subjects for students in sixth through 10th grades and AP government politics for 11th- and 12th-graders. Thomas hopes there will be enough interest in an AP computer science class as well.

Eventually, as the program grows and more teachers undergo the intensive professional development required to teach AP-level classes, Clements will add AP biology, physics and chemistry classes.

Across the county, Tanner High School is also gearing up to add A+ College ready courses to their 2018-2019 curriculum, which currently includes an AP history class.

“This will add many academic opportunities for our students,” Tanner High School Assistant Principal Deborah Kenyon said. “I believe these opportunities will expand our student's educational experiences and enable all students to succeed in a challenging curriculum.”

Kenyon also plans on offering an AP computer science discoveries and AP English/language arts to juniors and seniors. Students in sixth through 10th grades will gain access to pre-AP courses in science, English, social studies and computer science. Pre-AP math will be available to students in sixth through 11th grades.

About the program

The A+ College Ready program is a division of the A+ Education Partnership and was created with a $13.2-million grant from the National Math and Science Initiative to prepare and encourage more Alabama students to take on AP classes and earn a passing score on the AP exam.

Working in partnership with the Alabama State Department of Education, A+ College Ready provided extensive training and support for teachers and students in high school and middle schools, including weeklong summer training institutes for teachers, additional professional development days throughout the year, ongoing support and coaching from expert content directors, financial stipends for teachers based on academic results and funding for supplies and and additional infrastructure to support the program.

In addition to getting more students plugged into AP classes, Thomas believes that the program “will help students understand that if they challenge themselves they can meet that goal instead of settling for just getting through school.”

He said students who take the LTF or pre-AP courses should score better on college prep tests such as the ACT and SAT, which translates into more scholarship dollars.

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