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Newton schools score AP honors
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Alcovy, Eastside and Newton high schools have been named AP Honor Schools by Georgia School Superintendent John Barge and the achievement has school officials encouraging the importance of advanced placement classes in order for college preparation.

The Newton County School System announced Wednesday that all three high schools were named AP honor schools. Honor Schools were named in five categories, based on the results of the 2012 AP classes and exams.

The five categories were as follows:

• AP CHALLENGE SCHOOL: Schools of 900 or fewer students testing in four of the core areas (English, math, science and social studies)

• AP ACCESS and SUPPORT SCHOOLS: Schools with at least 30 percent of their AP exams taken by students who identified themselves as African-American and/or Hispanic and 30 percent of all AP exams earning scores of 3 or higher.

• AP MERIT SCHOOLS: Schools with at least 20 percent of the student population taking AP exams and at least 50 percent of all AP exams earning scores of 3 or higher.

• AP STEM SCHOOLS: Schools with students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses (AP calculus AB, AP calculus BC, AP statistics, AP biology, AP chemistry, AP environmental science, AP physics B, AP physics C, AP computer science)

• AP STEM ACHIEVEMENT SCHOOLS: Schools with students testing in at least two AP math courses and two AP science courses and at least 4 percent of the exam scores on AP math and AP science exams earning scores of 3 or higher.

All three high schools earned the distinction in the AP STEM Schools category; and Alcovy High School was one of only 42 schools in the state to also earned distinction in the AP Access and Support Schools category. The report measures the progress of the class of 2012.

Advanced Placement classes and exams are administered by the College Board, which also administers the SAT. AP classes offer rigorous college-level learning options to students in high school. Students who receive a 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams may receive college credit.

Samantha Fuhrey, deputy superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction,

said over the last several years, all three high school’s leaders and teachers have worked diligently to provide more students with access to Advanced Placement courses, which she said paid off in many ways.

"Students taking Advanced Placement courses are direct benefactors of this effort as many colleges and universities translate the success on Advanced Placement exams as college credit, and they are well prepared to participate in the workforce should that be their choice after high school," Fuhrey said. "All three high schools earning the distinction as an AP Honor School further demonstrate our commitment to excellence."

NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews said the county’s three high schools have followed the lead of Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County, which has been nationally recognized for its AP success. Mathews said as a result of meetings and discussions with BHS, NCSS has stressed the importance of its high school students taking AP courses.

"NCSS has had face-to-face discussions with BHS as well as attended presentations they have made," Mathews said. "As the result of Berkmar’s success, our faculty members have encouraged our students to enroll in AP courses, while stressing the need to be exposed to increased rigor. And, too, we have emphasized that students should be much more concerned with what they actually learn in AP courses rather than worries over a certain letter grade."

"We’re seeking more students — a diverse group of students — to take more rigorous courses. Our students have to step it up academically as we as adults step up our expectations of students."

Principals of two of the high schools also discussed why AP focused courses were beneficial to students looking to further their education after high school.

Eastside High School Principal Jeff Cher said Eastside students who take AP exams traditionally perform extremely well. He said strengthening AP programs at the high schools required increasing the number of students taking AP tests.

"We want to continue this trend while exposing more students to the AP curriculum," said Cher. "Ultimately, the entire education process still hinges upon the pairing of motivated students with outstanding teachers throughout school so that students are fully prepared for future challenges."

Cher said the fact of all three high schools being named as AP Honor Schools recognizes the hard work of the students, parents, teachers, counselors and administrators at Eastside and the entire school system.

"Developing an effective Advanced Placement program truly requires the participation and commitment of all stakeholders," Cher said. "As an entire school system, we have focused upon providing rigorous, meaningful learning experiences for all students. At the high-school level, we have dedicated ourselves towards producing graduates that are college-ready and/or work-ready. The Advanced Placement curriculum is taught at a collegiate level and pace. Part of our success is attributed to pairing motivated students with outstanding teachers."

Newton High School Principal Craig Lockhart also said the fact that all three high schools achieved the honor shows how each of the high schools have excelled compared to other counties.

“We are one of the few systems in Georgia in which 100 percent of the high schools in Newton County have been designated as AP STEM schools. We must applaud the efforts of the district as a whole,” Lockhart said.