DeKALB – High school students like Stephanie Holbrook and Tyler Koch take advanced placement classes for a variety of reasons, including to prepare for college classes or just to embrace the challenge.
Enrolled in advanced placement art 2D design, Holbrook worked last week on a batik wall hanging. Batik designs are created with hot wax to preserve the fabric, and then color is added with fabric dyes.
“AP art classes really allow your creative juices to flow,” Holbrook said.
Regardless of the reasons, DeKalb High School is following a statewide trend toward more students – and more minority students – enrolling in AP classes.
Illinois is emerging as a national leader in closing the equity gap for Latino and low-income AP test takers, providing additional access to college for traditionally underserved populations, according to a news release from the Illinois State Board of Education.
State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch calls this a huge step forward in achieve excellence and improving college access.
“Illinois is committed to preparing all students for success in college and careers through equal, yet challenging, opportunities,” Koch said in the news release. “The latest AP exam results are further proof that our efforts are on the right track.”
Although AP tests, which determine if students can receive college credit, are conducted in May, Holbrook hasn’t decided if she will take any. Holbrook is a senior at DeKalb who plans to attend Western Illinois University in Macomb, with plans for a career in graphic design.
Enrolled in AP chemistry at DeKalb, Tyler Koch plans to test in May. A junior, he plans a career in engineering.
“This was the only AP science class that interested me,” Koch said.
DeKalb High School offers AP classes in art, biology, calculus, chemistry, English language, English literature, European history, government and politics, Spanish and U.S. history. Music theory is offered as an independent study, and classes taken in the Engineering Academy at Kishwaukee College are weighted and taken for dual credit.
DHS does not limit the number of AP classes a student can take.
DeKalb School District District 428 high school counselor Cindy Dugan said during the 2012-13 school year, 151 students took 245 exams. This year, among the 1,750 high school students enrolled, about 300 are taking AP classes.
“Last year, 35 percent of the students taking exams took two,” Dugan said. “Six percent took four or more.”
Breaking down the numbers further, Dugan said 20 percent of the exam takers were on free or reduced-price lunches, 69 percent were white, 2.5 percent were African American, 13 percent were Hispanic and 12 percent were Asian.
Minority numbers increased from the previous year, when only 1 percent of test takers were African American, 9 percent were Hispanic and 8 percent were Asian.
AP chemistry teacher Isabelle Kovarik said higher scores on the tests can translate to college classes students don’t have to take, class hours that can be used elsewhere and tuition dollars saved, perhaps even speeding up the process of earning a degree. AP tests are scored from 1 to 5.
Sycamore High School offered only three AP classes this year – English literature, English composition and history. For the coming school year, art, Spanish, physics and statistics will be added. Kristine Weber, director of curriculum for Sycamore School District 427, said about 190 of the 1,202 students at the high school are taking AP classes. She said about 130 planned to take AP tests.
At Genoa-Kingston, counselor Julie French said 200 of the school’s 627 students are enrolled in AP history, biology, environmental science, English or literature.
“Whether they take the tests or not, generally our more-motivated students are going to be taking AP classes,” Genoa-Kingston School District 424 Superintendent Joe Burgess said.