Methuen High School AP Participation Soars

Partnership with the Mass Math + Science Initiative produces big gains in
Advanced Placement* participation and performance.
METHUEN, MA – Methuen High School has made great gains on students’ Advanced Placement (AP) scores, largely as a result of its partnership with the Mass Math + Science Initiative (MMSI), according to information just released by the College Board. This partnership, which began in the 2009-2010 school year, has enabled the school to expand its AP course enrollments and has provided resources and professional development to support high-level teaching and learning.

From 2009 to 2011, Methuen has seen a staggering 273% increase in students participating in AP exams, along with an equally impressive 198% increase in the number of students earning qualifying scores. Prior to 2010, AP course participation for low-income and minority students in Methuen was quite low. This past year, 24.1% of Methuen’s AP exam participants were minority students, and 17.3% came from low-income families. In addition to calculus, statistics, biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, and two AP English classes supported by MMSI, Methuen High also offers AP courses in Spanish, psychology, United States history, European history, and studio art. Increased participation and improved scores have been evident across the board.

AP courses are college-level classes taught in high school. Each course culminates with a May exam designed to measure each student’s mastery of the subject. Exams are graded on a scale of 1-5, with scores of 3, 4 and 5 considered passing or “qualifying” scores. More than 90 percent of four-year colleges in the United States and colleges in more than 60 other countries give students credit, advanced placement, or both on the basis of AP Exam scores.

“We’re thrilled with the AP achievement of our students,” said Jennifer Smith, Methuen’s Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. “We’ve almost tripled the number of students participating in Advanced Placement and have nearly doubled the number of qualifying scores. The MMSI initiative has given Methuen High so many resources and such high-quality professional development to support our teachers and students. It has been an extremely effective means of giving more students college-level learning experiences while they’re still in high school.”

MMSI expands access and improves outcomes in college-level courses, particularly among black, Hispanic, low-income, female, and other student groups under-represented by AP classes, in order to prepare them for highly skilled careers in STEM. The MMSI approach includes extensive teacher training and mentoring, Saturday study sessions and other academic supports for students, and privately-funded financial awards for teachers and students. Schools participating in the program sign performance agreements with MMSI, which include specific enrollment and achievement targets. 2010-2011 was Methuen High School’s second year in the program.

“These results demonstrate that with high quality training and support, students in Methuen and across Massachusetts can succeed in rigorous, college-level courses, setting them on a path to college and career success,” said Morton Orlov II, President of the Mass Math + Science Initiative. “Our students, particularly low-income and minority students, are meeting the challenge. The school district has demonstrated a commitment to excellence by partnering with MMSI, and Methuen’s teachers and students worked very hard for these impressive results – I congratulate them.”

MMSI, the largest statewide high school science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education program, now partners with 45 Massachusetts high schools. In its first three years, MMSI has increased AP math, science, and English enrollments in participating schools from about 4,000 to more than 8,000 today. From 2008 to 2010, MMSI schools nearly doubled their numbers of qualifying scores with a 96% increase. A 2011 Worcester Polytechnic Institute study showed that MMSI schools have made “significantly more progress” in closing AP participation and achievement gaps than non-MMSI Massachusetts high schools.

Information on total gains in qualifying scores across MMSI’s 45 partner schools will be released in September.

About Methuen High School
Located in northeast Massachusetts, Methuen High School has a total enrollment of just over 1800 students. About one-third of its students are minorities, and nearly 20% did not speak English as their first language. One-third of the school’s students come from low-income families. Methuen High’s AP program began in 1990-1991, with 26 students participating in two courses—calculus and English literature. In 2010-2011, 265 students participated in thirteen different Advanced Placement courses. More than 18% of the school’s most recent graduating class had scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam during their junior and senior years.

About MMSI
The Mass Math + Science Initiative (MMSI) drives a school culture of high expectations and dramatically increases participation and performance in Advanced Placement courses, particularly among underserved populations, to prepare students for college and career success in STEM. Led by Mass Insight Education in partnership with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the program was founded in 2007, when Massachusetts was one of six states selected by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) to receive a privately funded grant to expand enrollment and performance in AP math, science and English courses. For more information, visit http://www.massinsight.org/mmsi.

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