Published in the July 21, 2016 edition


NORTH READING – North Reading High School students taking Advanced Placement courses in 2016 continued the school’s track record of outstanding results as the number of students taking the exams rose again this year, along with the overall passing rate, all of which is good news to Principal AJ Loprete.

Advanced Placement courses are college level courses a student can take in high school. At the end of the course, when the student takes the AP exam, they are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.

AP courses are more rigorous because they are high school courses and students receive college credit if they score well on the standardized exam. Scores of 3 and above are considered passing.

There were 450 AP tests administered to NRHS students in 2016, the highest number ever and a 6 percent increase over last year, when 424 tests were administered. And 321 of those tests received scores of 3, 4 or 5 (out of a possible 5), a passing rate of 71 percent, the highest in the last 12 years. (Last year’s passing rate was 67 percent).

The school’s passing rate has now risen for the past three years.

Every year for the past 11 years, the high school’s participation rate in the AP exams has climbed. Only 87 exams were taken by NRHS students in 2005, with a passing rate of 54 percent. Every year since then, the participation rate has continued to rise and the passing rate shows an almost unbroken trend upward.

Loprete said he “couldn’t be happier” with the results, which he said represents “an integrated dynamic.”

“The students know they’re going to be challenged. They sign up for this course, they’re committed to this course. The teacher recognizes the students’ commitment. Out of that comes the success. The students’ commitment and the teacher’s effort result in a special dynamic that works even more effectively.”

For the last two years, the school has received recognition from the AP Board for taking more tests and increasing its scores at the same time. That success story was repeated in 2016.

In the 15 subject areas where tests were administered at NRHS, the average score rose in 12 and declined in three.

In English Literature, 13 exams were taken, (five more than last year), with an average score of 3.38, up from 3.25 the year before. Eleven students scored 3.0 or better.

In Calculus AB, 28 exams were taken, (eight more than last year), with an average score of 2.71, up from 2.24. Sixteen test-takers scored 3.0 or better.

In Computer Science AB, six students took the exam, double last year’s number. The average score was 3.68, down from last year’s 4.0, but all six scored 3.0 or better.

In Biology, 64 students took the exam, down from 67 last year. The average score rose to 2.95, up from 2.83 last year and 43 received scores of 3.0 or better.

In Chemistry, 17 took the exam, down from 28 last year, with an average score of 2.23, also down from last year’s average of 2.50. Eight students received a qualifying score of 3.0 or better.

AP Physics remains a tough nut to crack. Twenty-nine students took the exam this year, one more than last year and the average score did rise, but only to 1.62. Four student students scored 3.0 or better, (compared to only two last year).

The Environmental Science remains popular at NRHS, with 44 students taking the test for an average score of 3.31, up from 3.05 last year. Twenty-nine of those test-takers scored 3.0 or better.

U.S. Government was the most popular AP exam taken at NRHS this year, with 49 tests administered, (double last year’s number). The average score was 3.30, up from 2.75 last year, with 34 scores of 3.0 or better.

In U.S. History, 28 students took the exam and had an average score of 4.28, up from 4.23 last year. Twenty-six students scored 3.0 or better.

In Psychology, another popular exam, 22 students took the test with an average score of 3.86, up from last year’s 3.81. Twenty of the test-takers scored 3.0 or better.

The average score dipped in Calculus BC, where 16 students took the exam, (up from 12 last year) for an average score of 3.75. (Last year’s average was 3.91). Thirteen of the 16 test takers scored 3.0 or better.

In Statistics, 21 students took the test, (down from 27 last year), and the average score was 3.66, up from 3.25 last year. Sixteen of the test-takers scored 3.0 or better.

World History had 10 test takers, nine of whom scored 3.0 or better. The average score was 3.60, up from 2.93 last year.

In English Language, the number of test taken increased to 103 this year, (up from 93 in 2015) and the average score increased to 3.08, up from 3.07. Seventy-three students scored 3.0 or better.

Loprete has e-mailed the scores to all of the teachers who taught AP courses at the high school. “They have communicated back to me just how happy they are with this level of achievement,” he said.

And it doesn’t stop with the Class of 2016. Loprete says the numbers already show an increase in AP signups for the Class of 2017.

“The benefits of the program and the way we run it is that it’s totally inclusive. You can choose to take the class, sign up for the class, there are no prerequisites per se. It’s an achievement to see this kind of sustained improvement while keeping the classes accessible and encouraging the students to challenge themselves.”

“We’re doing this three years in a row with a commitment to accessibility. It’s a process that begins in the spring of the previous year, when the teachers hold an open seminar with students interested in taking the course, going over the requirements and the expectations. Students have that information well before they plan their academic schedule and they know what their commitment will be. Then we have the AP Contract,” in which they commit to not only take the class but take the AP exam as well.

“So when the course starts in September, the students are already five months into it. The commitment piece plays a tremendous role in preparing the student for the course and allowing them to excel.”