WCHS is on most challenging schools list

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By Brandon Mattingly

The Washington Post has been ranking schools nationally based on testing criteria since 2011 as part of their Challenge Index, and Washington County High School made the list for the 2011-12 school year.

WCHS was submitted as a candidate to make the list by gifted/talented coordinator Carolyn Ray, and registers a 1.142 on the index, which is a ratio of Advanced Placement or other college-level exams taken throughout the school year per number of graduating seniors.
Ray said AP classes have become a larger part of what WCHS is doing and that more is being expected of students on an everyday basis.

“The district as a whole is working very hard to have our students prepared for demanding coursework after high school,” she said. “We are increasing our expectations at all grade levels. We hope that our AP program will continue to increase in numbers and in passing rate of the tests.”

Since the district began receiving Advance Kentucky grant money two years ago, the AP program at the high school has grown drastically, and continues to do so.

Ray pointed to AP teachers being sent to summer institutes, middle and high school teachers attending LTF (Laying the Foundation) training and some elementary teachers attending training as indicators that Washington County is serious about building on the AP system.

“LTF offers new content, teaching strategies and vertically aligned lessons that connect middle school and high school classes to analytical skills, content and assessment strategies that will prepare students for AP classes and post-secondary coursework,” she said of the training program.

Ray suggested that a student doing well in school should take at least one AP class their sophomore year, and at least two in each of their years as an upperclassman. Better access to KEES money, ACT help and reduced college expenses were among her reasons that more students should take tougher classes.

“ I feel like most students can and should take at least one AP class during their high school career,” she said. “This can help students to know that they can succeed in college. If students do not pass the test, it is okay. It is a learning experience for them. There is evidence that students who have taken an AP class, regardless of whether they pass the exam, do better in college.”

It’s also no secret that more students are going to college than ever before, but that also means there is more competition at the admissions office. According to Ray, a study showed that 93 percent of college admission officers said that AP course experience mattered when comparing candidates for admission.

While the results from 2012 are exciting, the Challenge Index for Washington County is expected to take a step back in 2013. This, however, is only a temporary dip according to Ray.

“With the massive cuts to education we will not be able to offer as many AP classes as we have in the past,” she said. “However, I hope that in the near future, we will have students who have benefited from the teachers who have been through the LTF training and are prepared for taking the AP classes. With the increased number of students who are prepared for the classes, we will be then able to offer more AP classes.”

To find out more about the Challenge Index, visit apps.washingtonpost.com/highschoolchallenge.