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Students Scores on AP Exams Increased Under Axed Program

The Milford School Committee reviewed an analysis by school officials Thursday that showed passing scores on AP exams in math, science and English improved while the high school participated in the Massachusetts Math and Science Initiative.

Did Milford students gain something from the school system participating in the Massachusetts Math and Science Initiative?

According to an analysis provided by school officials, students earned higher scores on Advanced Placement exams, and more students earned passing scores, which enables them to earn college credit.

According to Superintendent Robert Tremblay:

• The number of students earning the top scores on the AP exam – either a 4 or a 5 – increased from 74 to 94 on exams in math, science and English.

• The number of students earning a passing score on the AP exam – a 3 or better – increased from 41 to 83 in math.

• Milford High School had a 50 percent increase in low-income students taking AP exams in math, science and English.

• The number of minority race or ethnicity students taking AP exams doubled.

"Milford High School was on track, and increasing the rigor of its AP program," Tremblay said.

The math and science initiative, known by the acronym MMSI, partnered with Milford Schools for the 2011-12 school year. The program ended this summer, after Milford High School faculty voted to terminate the contract.

The Milford School Committee had invited leadership of the Milford Teachers Association to attend its Thursday night meeting, to discuss the vote to end the program, and the teachers' reasoning, but no teachers attended.

Several School Committee members said they were frustrated and disappointed at the lack of communication between the teachers and district.

"We gave them an opportunity to come here and sit and talk with us, and not one person showed up," said Committee member Michael Walsh.

Teachers have not publicly explained their rationale for ending the initiative. By agreement, they had the right to end it. The vote to do so was 68 to 14, according to a letter sent to the superintendent following the decision.

On Thursday, Tremblay said teachers in meetings before the vote had expressed concern about how aggressive MMSI was in recruiting students to AP classes, "that students were being pushed into AP classes to meet MMSI's enrollment demands, and not because it was the educationally sound thing to do."

School Committee members, referring to the program score statistics, refuted that, saying it clearly provided an educational benefit for enrolled students.

In total, Milford High School had more than 100 more passing scores on AP exams between 2011 and 2012, Tremblay said. Between 2010 and 2012, passing scores were up 197 percent.

Said School Committee member Scott Harrison: "I don't want to minimize that big of an increase. Very clearly, this program was helping."

Jim O'Connor October 19, 2012 at 03:17 PM
I support the right of employees, public and private sector, to organize and collectively bargain for pay, benefits, and working conditions. That said, the Milford Teachers Association should issue a public statement concerning this decision. There may be very good reasons for the action its members took, but without communicating the reasons we will never know them, opening up the teachers to unfair criticism.
UglyHat October 19, 2012 at 04:31 PM
I do not support the right of public employees to collectively bargain in our current political system. If the system were designed to better represent ‘the people’ at the bargaining table, perhaps I would reconsider. But a system that allows unions so much influence over the selection of their negotiating counterparts does not adequately protect the interests of the children or the taxpayers. And if the union decides not to communicate the reasons for their decisions, then all criticism related to those decisions is entirely fair.
Kathy October 19, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Many schools try to offer the most AP classes, as well as high numbers of students participating, to appear more prestigious. I do not think Milford HS has taken that path because the results numbers over the years do not support it. I have relatives in Long Island, NY whose teens have had the choice of taking standard, honors or AP subjects, no pre-requisite courses required for more than 6 years. They did very well in the AP courses with no prior subject knowledge. The curriculum for AP just covered the subject more in-depth, at a higher level of understanding. This program attempts to do the same. The option should be available to all students. The Parent knows how well their teen would perform based on past effort and performance. Whether considered as a gifted program or not, if a student wants to challenge him/herself and do the extra work required to take on such a commitment, more power to them. Being that extra time/effort/meetings were required, I think the vote should have been taken among the participating teachers in the program and not the entire Teachers' Union. It would be interesting to know how many of the participating AP teachers voted for or against the renewal of the initiative. One shining positive of all of this is that the participating teachers and students showed improvement and they gained skills that should apply to future courses. Well done!
Michelle October 20, 2012 at 01:05 PM
In addition, the AP classes are so important these days with students getting into colleges and also having those credits to their advantage when starting college. In this competitive world with math and science being so key in so many professions, I cannot understand how the teachers came to this decision, and how this can happen without any school committee or superintendent input. And it also sounds like the students were doing quite well from the stats in this article. Very disappointing! What other decisions like this are affecting our children in Milford schools?
Teacher's Pet October 20, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Those students who did benefit from the AP programs will continue to benefit. Michelle did you not listen to the facts? There will still be AP courses. The students who belong in AP courses will still be in them. Most colleges will not accept AP credits and still require students to take the courses again, at least the colleges that most Milford kids are going to anyways. The teachers can still take courses but will not be paid just for taking the courses. The teachers will still have extra help and Saturday help sessions but will not be paid just to have them and students who don't need them will not be forced to go to them. The only change is that Milford might have to shell out some of their own money for an honest program where everyone wins instead of taking outside money where only a few kids and AP teachers win. What is happening is that teachers are saying they will do this for free for the benefit of those students who truly are interested. And the vote was 68 against and 14 for. Stop bellyaching and listen to the kids and what they say and want!
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 20, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Teacher's Pet, your information about AP courses not being accepted as college credit is inaccurate. Colleges determine how much credit to give, but it's not factual to state that Milford kids will get no credit for getting a 3 or better on the AP exams. UMass gives credit, for example. And the whole argument here seems to be about who gets in: as you stated, "the students who belong in AP courses." The program that has ended viewed things like teacher recommendations as barriers. You may think that those barriers are appropriate. But the statistics seem to indicate the kids did better last year, despite the increased enrollments. Disclosure: I'm one of the kids who 30 years ago got into an AP course to "fill it out." And it was the only course that prepared me for Michigan State.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 20, 2012 at 04:34 PM
If people want to take a look at the College Board data, I've attached a PDF of the SAT and AP results for Massachusetts high schools.
Teacher's Pet October 20, 2012 at 07:56 PM
I appreciate the update Mary but I said "the colleges that most Milford kids are going to anyways". That is Harvard, Yale, George Washington, Holy Cross, MIT, WPI, Clark, etc. They laugh at the watered down AP courses and tell their students they have to start at the beginning. UMass may still accept the AP credits for now but with MMSI we will see how long they can...
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 20, 2012 at 10:54 PM
I would want to see your sourcing on this. The AP test is standardized. If you live in Detroit, Michigan, and get a 3, it is evaluated the same as a 3 coming from Milford. The coursework is a standard curriculum, too. What varies is how much the university gives for a 3 in a given AP class. One university gives less than another. If they're giving less to Milford students, as opposed to, say the students from my high school in NH, that is a story I would like to write.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 20, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Also, I'd be surprised if most students from Milford are going to Harvard, Yale, MIT, George Washington, etc... I don't have the college bound report for the 2012 seniors, but the report for MA indicates the following are the top destinations for MA high school seniors: UMass Amherst, Northeastern, UMass Dartmouth, UMass Lowell, Boston University, UNH, Bridgewater State, Salem State, URI, UMass Boston.
Little Engine That Could October 21, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I think everyone is ignorant to the fact that the numbers given at the school committee meeting, while accurate, are not true statistics. If you were to truly look at how successful this program is, then you would have to look at the PERCENTAGES of students who received a qualifying score of 3 or higher in AP Math, Science, and English courses. Simply looking at the number of individual students doesn't help explain the whole story. Last year, there were two brand new courses introduced at MHS that fell under the MMSI grant. AP Statistics and AP Environmental Science were new to the high school in the 2011-2012 school year. Both classes surely contributed scores of 3, 4, or 5. In addition if you compare the statistics you posted in the PDF and compare it to the 2011 data, Milford actually saw a DROP in the percentage of scores that were 3, 4, or 5 on an AP exam. Milford went from 192 students taking 312 AP exams with 179 receiving a qualifying score (57%) in 2011 to 260 students taking 451 AP exams with only 241 receiving a qualifying score (53%). This data takes into account ALL AP exams taken, including the other brand new AP class offered last year, AP Psychology. AP Psych is considered history, so it did not fall under the MMSI grant. So when you actually look at numbers like this, you can easily see that MMSI was not as beneficial as some people would like to think. Yes, more kids are taking AP classes, but we have seen an overall drop in achievement.
Teacher's Pet October 21, 2012 at 09:06 PM
My resource is just my friends and family who have had their AP classes ignored when they went to the colleges I mentioned. They have the experience to say the courses are a joke and are useless.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 21, 2012 at 11:17 PM
And so, by this argument, the increase from 179 qualifying scores in 2001 to 241 qualifying scores in 2012 (62 more) were all students who were previously enrolled in AP courses, who just happened to enroll in the two new courses? I'm not sure that's accurate, either. Those 62 scores have the potential of earning college credit for their test-takers. There is also an argument that can be made that scoring below a 3 is not failing - you are being exposed to higher expectations and a teacher with more training, in general.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 22, 2012 at 12:03 AM
And yet, in college admissions, what gets someone into a good school? The big three: the rigor of their high school courses, their grade point average, their SAT scores. As much as we talk about college essays and extracurriculars, those three at the top are what the universities look at. But you are saying that someone who took multiple AP classes at Milford, and then got into a premier university, says the courses were useless. Can you see my frustration as a reporter in all these comments: this was a discussion that should have taken place in public, at the school committee meeting. Let's have an honest, open discussion about the rigor of Milford High School, one that parents can listen to, and decide whether this is a school system that is working! :)
Little Engine That Could October 22, 2012 at 02:58 AM
No Mary, that's not the argument that is being made. Any intelligent person who has taken a basic mathematics class (and especially a basic stats class) can see that by looking simply at numbers and not percentages, you don't get the whole picture. As we can also see from College Board data, we saw an increase in minority & low-income students who took AP classes and got the exposure to a more rigorous course and higher expectations than they would normally be exposed to. However, if you look at the AP math scores that saw an increase in qualifying scores, from 41 to 83, you might initially think that it is an impressive jump (over 100% increase... wow!). However, when you take into account that the new stats class had something like 80 students taking the course, the actual percentage increase in qualifying scores based on how many students took an AP math class increases by much less than 100%. My point is that the numbers presented to the school committee were presented in a way that inaccurately represents the true gains made by MMSI.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 22, 2012 at 03:03 AM
But you are saying that 53 percent of the students receiving a qualifying score in 2012, as opposed to 57 percent the prior year, is evidence of "an overall drop in achievement." What I'm arguing - is that 66 more scores qualified than did the previous years, that's 66 more scores to earn college credits for whoever earned them. You see it as half-empty; I guess I see the 66 as a half-full argument.
Little Engine That Could October 22, 2012 at 03:08 AM
The college board has a great website to find out if a college will accept the credit from an AP exam. http://collegesearch.collegeboard.com/apcreditpolicy/index.jsp It definitely depends on the college, but many prestigious institutions typically do not accept AP credit unless the score is a 4 or a 5. In many cases, if a student is planning to major in a field where they took an AP exam, the college will not accept AP credit as college credit, but instead will only allow that student to place into a higher level intro class. For example, if a student took AP Biology and scored a 4 or 5 and entered college as a Biology major, the college may allow them to skip the basic intro Bio class and enter a higher level class instead. However, as stated above, it all depends on the individual college, so if students wish to skip some classes due to qualifying AP exam scores, they should be sure to apply to colleges who will allow them to do so.
Little Engine That Could October 22, 2012 at 10:28 PM
No Mary, you see it incorrectly when it comes to statistics. That's what I'm saying. Maybe you should drop into some of the AP stats classes at the high school. I hear they are doing some great things up there.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 22, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Or, better yet, maybe I should stop arguing online with the Little Engine that Could. Have a good night!

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