More students in advanced classes

ESCANABA – More students took advantage of Advanced Placement (AP) courses and dual enrollment opportunities at Escanaba High School during the 2013-14 school year compared to the past several years, according to data presented at Monday’s Escanaba School Board meeting.

In the last school year, 218 students were enrolled in one of the high school’s AP classes, compared to 149 in 2012-13 and 148 in 2011-12, according to Escanaba High School Principal Doug Leisenring.

The high school offers five AP courses in the subjects of biology, calculus, chemistry, English literature and composition, and statistics.

“These courses are all programs sponsored by the College Board,” explained Leisenring. “And what the College Board does is we have to submit the curriculum of what we’re going to teach. When they approve it, our teachers teach what’s called Advanced Placement, which is essentially a college level curriculum in the high school setting taught by one of our teachers.”

In May, each student can take an end of course exam where they receive a score on a five-point scale. Students who pass the exam with a 3, 4, or 5 score often are awarded college credits.

Exams are offered for a fee, with reduced fees available for students demonstrating financial need.

Last year students attempted 147 exams and passed 89. This number is up from the 82 exams completed in 2012-13, of which 58 exams were passed.

“We’re starting to realize how powerful it is for kids to have college credit before they leave high school,” said Leisenring, noting it not only saves money but can better prepare students for their college experience.

AP students at EHS tested higher than the national average in biology, English literature and composition, and statistics, but below the national average in calculus and chemistry.

However, not all students take the AP exam at the end of the course, he said.

“Some just don’t feel prepared. They just don’t think they’re ready,” he said. “The thing is, if you take that college level curriculum, even if you don’t take the test, you’re still much better prepared.”

Another option to prepare high school students is dual enrollment through Bay College, which has seen similar success.

Dual enrollment allows Michigan schools to pay for high school students to take college courses for credit and is open to students in grades 9-12.

In order to dual enroll, students need a qualifying score on the ACT test or Compass Test, the latter of which is now offered at the high school.

“A lot of our kids will go to Bay’s campus, but you see more and more kids taking dual enrollment classes online,” said Leisenring. “Even last year, we had two dual enrollment classes from Bay that were taught at the high school by Bay instructors.”

In the 2013-14 school year alone, 47 students were dual enrolled and earned 330 college credits. This is up from 20 students in 2012-13 and 24 students in 2011-12.

Leisenring also noted that college applications and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are important pieces of the college preparation process.

Because of this, the high school has been offering more college application assistance meetings to help guide parents and students.

A parent informational meeting will be held Wednesday, Sept. 17, and the high school also participates in College Application Week from Nov. 3-7, he said.

Parent informational meetings on FAFSA are held in late January with FAFSA Completion Nights taking place in February.

Leisenring also touted the high school’s scholarship program which awarded more than $350,000 in scholarships to EHS graduates in 2014, of which at least $3,000 was awarded to each of the top 38 students.

“EHS kids last year earned more college credits than any other year, more scholarship money than any other year, and our AP scores are very good, but we want to improve and we’re working on that too,” he said.

In other business, the board:

– approved the following hirings: Carrie Muse-Mead as junior high sideline cheerleading coach, Melissa Kressin as the 80 percent elementary technology teacher, Melissa Wood as a second grade teacher at Lemmer Elementary School, Mary Theoret as student support specialist at the Escanaba Student Success Center, and Rebecca Dubord as crossing guard at Webster Elementary School and the Escanaba Senior High School.

– approved an unpaid leave of absence request of 25 work days for an Escanaba Education Association member.

– approved the 2014-15 student/parent handbooks for each school in the district.

– approved an overnight trip for orchestra students to Chicago on May 1-3, 2015.

– approved the following food service bids for the 2014-15 school year: milk bids by Jilbert Dairy and bakery bids by Bimbo Bakeries USA/Sara Lee.

– elected Board Treasurer Jed Gagnier as a delegate to the Michigan Association of School Boards Delegate Assembly.

– adopted several NEOLA policies.

– approved the annual L4029 tax levy rate request for 2014, which remains unchanged from last year.

– approved designating $150,000 from the 2013-14 budget to be placed into the district’s Public Improvement Fund for future capital projects.

– heard highlights of the annual education reports by Superintendent Michele Lemire. State and federal law require school districts to present the annual reports to the public no later than 15 days prior to the beginning of the school year. The reports for each school as well as the district are now available in school offices and posted online at www.eskymos.com.