State leads nation in AP score improvement; funding cuts may slow progress

Published 3:35 pm Friday, September 17, 2010

The College Board announced this week the state showed the greatest percentage increase in the nation – 17.7 percent – in Advanced Placement (AP) Test Score improvement. Locally, the excitement over this positive news on the public education front is tempered by the hardships of proration and the continued sluggish economy.

Darren Douthitt, superintendent of the Butler County School System, says programs like ACCESS Distance Learning, the Alabama Math, Science and Reading Initiative (AMSTI) and the Alabama Reading Initiative (ARI) have greatly enhanced school systems across the state, including Butler County.

Governor Riley has directly credited the state’s partnership and commitment to programs like ACCESS Distance Learning initiative in Alabama schools for the impressive stats from the College Board.

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But will the funds remain in place to keep and grow these programs in the schools?

“Programs like AMSTI and ACCESS have proven they work; however, they also require funding, and proration really hurts programs like these,” Douthitt said.

“It’s as if you’ve taken several steps forward, and now you feel as if you are being knocked back. And that’s not good.”

The superintendent says he is a major proponent of AP coursework in the county’s high schools, and hopes they can be solidly maintained in spite of the specter of proration.

“AP courses add rigor to the curriculum, which helps our students become more successful in school, in higher education and successful in life,” Douthitt said.

“I would like to see us do more with our secondary curriculum regarding AP courses.”

It’s not always easy to persuade students to take on the challenge of Advanced Placement courses, Douthitt adds.

“Even your bright, capable students will often want to avoid such coursework, because they think it’s going to cut into their fun. So parents, along with teachers and faculty, have to convince these students AP is a good choice for them,” Douthitt said.

While Greenville High School has an active AP program, the superintendent said he would like a great push by parents and educators alike to double and triple the enrollments at the school.

“I want to see us making greater use of our ACCESS capabilities in our south Butler County Schools as well. The technology is in place; we need to use it to allow them to take courses they wouldn’t get otherwise,” Douthitt said.

Between 2006 and 2010, the number of AP exam takers in Alabama public schools has increased 125.3 percent; since 2009, the number of AP exam takers in Alabama public schools has increased 18.1 percent. Participation by both black (a 28.5 percent increase) and Hispanic (16.9 percent increase) students has grown in the past year.

Unwelcome news came Thursday when Riley announced the state would have to increase proration by another two percent, requiring an additional $113 million in spending cuts. The increase is required because September is the end of the 2010 fiscal year, and state law requires a balanced budget. According to Riley, the state is losing funds that would have gone to the Education Trust Fund from BP, because BP is now refusing to pay the state due to the lawsuit filed by AG Troy King, an allegation King denies.