Novato High School experienced a huge jump in its number of Advanced Placement Scholars based on test results from May and San Marin High had a slight decline, according to statistics released by the Novato Unified School District.
In all, 123 kids in Novato public schools have been recognized as AP Scholars — including five National Scholars for really rocking their tests — now that advanced placement exam results are in. The district had 103 AP Scholars in the 2010-11 academic year.
The five National AP Scholars were Thomas Boeck and Ophelia Pedersen of San Marin and Misah White, Grace Shen and Tyler Lang of Novato High.
Novato High had 81 AP Scholars, up from 51 a year ago. San Marin had 42, down from 52 a year ago.
Rey Mayoral, principal at Novato High, said he remembers during his days at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles when famed teacher Jaime Escalante challenged students to step up academically. Escalante, an Ecuadoran immigrant, taught calculus at Garfield from 1974 to 1991 and was portrayed in the 1988 film Stand and Deliver by Edward James Olmos.
Mayoral said it's becoming cool to be in an AP class at Novato High, just as it became at Garfield.
"If you create the environment, I think kids will rise to the top," he said. "We've been promoting this as long as I've been here, and it's really paying off."
Hiring of motivated teachers, promoting the AP program at middle schools and getting kids to stick with AP classes once they sign up has been key, Mayoral said. He said bringing in students from all over the district and county to attend the Marin School of the Arts probably had something to do with the strong scores as well.
Test results showed that San Marin increased its average AP test scores from 3.27 last year to 3.58 this year. Novato dipped slightly from 3.95 to 3.88.
San Marin principal Adam Littlefield, now in his second year at the school, said he was pleased that there were increases in the number of tests taken, the average scores and the number of students achieving high AP honors. He said all students who took the Spanish, music and art tests scored 3 or better.
There was a large increase in the number of AP exams taken by Novato students — 548 in all, up from 396 a year ago. The number was just about the same over that span at San Marin — 429, up from 422 a year ago.
Those students earning AP Scholar honors scored a 3 or better on three or more AP exams in May, district spokesperson Leslie Benjamin said in the release. The exams are scored on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest.
There were 25 local students who received 3.25 scores or better on all AP exams or 3 or better on five or more exams, according to district statistics. Another 37 students got 3.5 or better on all their AP exams or 3 or better on five or more exams.
In all, 531 NUSD students — 293 at Novato High and 238 at San Marin High — took 977 AP exams in May in subjects ranging from studio art design to United States history to Spanish. More than 3,800 colleges and universities in the U.S. annually receive AP Exam scores and most four-year colleges in the U.S. provide credit and/or advanced placement for qualifying scores.
National AP Scholars received an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more of these exams.
Advanced placement, a program of the College Board, is a series of courses offered to high school students and modeled upon a comparable college course. College faculty ensure that AP courses align with college-level standards.