Published in the July 16, 2015 edition


NORTH READING — The story of North Reading High School students’ remarkable achievements in Advanced Placement courses continued this year as the number of students taking the exams rose again, along with the overall passing rate, good news to Principal AJ Loprete, who says the achievement speaks well of the school’s students and faculty.

Advanced Placement courses are college level courses a student can take in high school. AP courses are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest.

Typically, AP courses are more rigorous than other courses because they are, in fact, college courses and students can receive college credit if they score well enough on the standardized exam. Scores of 3 and above are considered passing.

There were 424 AP tests administered to NRHS students in 2015, the highest number ever and a 6 percent increase over last year, when 399 tests were administered. And 282 of those tests received scores of 3, 4 or 5 (out of a possible 5), a passing rate of 67 percent. That’s the second–highest passing rate in the last 11 years.

Every year for the last 10 years, the high school’s participation rate in the AP exams has only 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 rise upward. This year’s passing rate of 67 percent was the second highest, second only to 2012 when the passing rate was 68 percent.

To Principal AJ Loprete, the results represent a validation of the school’s policy of encouraging students to take the exam.

Last year, the school received recognition from the AP Board for taking more tests and increasing scores at the same time. Well, in 2015, NRHS repeated that success story, taking more tests and increasing its scores.

“It’s an indication of more success for the way we approach this program. I’m very happy with it,” said Loprete.

“I could not be more proud of the fact we put no restrictions on these students to prove they can handle the course work other than signing up and telling them it’s going to be challenging and they really meet the challenge.

“To have an increased percentage in overall qualifying scores with an increase in test takers, it’s very encouraging for what the teachers are doing here,” Lopete said.

Students gain many benefits from taking on the strenuous course work that goes with the AP exams, Loprete said.

“They’re taking a challenging work load and they know they’re signing up for a challenging course. The preparation, the experience and the commitment to their own academic development is reflected in all of it,” Loprete said. “Additionally, it’s very encouraging for the teachers to know there’s a large percentage of the students who want that challenge. That’s a sign of investment for the school climate and culture. We’re here for the right reason.”

• In English Literature, eight exams were taken, with an average score of 3.25, up slightly from 3.12 the year before. Seven students scored 3.0 or higher.

• In Calculus AB, 20 exams were taken, with an average score of 2.25, nearly identical to last year’s score. Eight test–takers scored 3.0 or better.

• In Computer Science AB, three students took the exam, only the second time NRHS students have taken this particular test. Two received scores of 3.0 or higher and the average score was 3.33.

• In Biology, the number of test takes almost doubled, from 34 last year to 67 this year and the average score was 2.83, down slightly from last year’s 3.0. But the number of qualifying scores doubled to 44, up from 22 in 2014.

• In Chemistry, 28 students took the exam – not quite as many as last year, when 32 signed up. But this year’s average score of 2.5 was higher than last year’s 1.71 and 13 students scored 3.0 or higher, nearly double last year’s number of seven.

• The AP Physics exam remains a tough nut to crack. Twenty eight students took the exam and the average score was only 1.21, with only two qualifying scores of 3.0 or higher. This is down from last year’s average of 1.93 with seven qualifying scores (out of 32 tests).

“There are certainly some areas where we would like to see some improvement, and that Physics test is a new test,” Loprete commented. “That’s something we have to take a look at and see if we’re approaching it in the right way.”

• Environmental Science remains the most popular test at NRHS, with 54 students signing up for it in 2015, compared to 45 in 2014. The average score was 3.05, (down from 3.53 last year). Thirty five students received qualifying scores this year, (65 percent).

• In U.S. Government, 24 exams were administered with an average score of 2.75. there were 13 qualifying scores of 3.0 or higher.

•  In U.S. History, 17 students took the exam and all 17 received qualifying scorers. The average score was 4.23.

• AP Psychology is another popular exam, with 22 taking the test, of whom 21 received qualifying scores. The average score was 3.81.

• In Spanish, six students took the exam and all six received qualifying scores. The average score was 3.33, up slightly from last year’s 3.11.

• In Statistics, 27 took the exam with an average score of 3.25. Nineteen received qualifying scores of 3.0. The test was not administered at NRHS last year.

• In World History, 15 students took the exam with an average score of 2.93, down from last year’s average of 3.33. But 12 of those 15 students received qualifying scores and only six took the test last year.

• In English Language, the number of test takers increased as well as the average score. Ninety three took the exam in 2015 with an average score of 3.07. Sixty–two had qualifying scores. Last year, 85 took the exam, 51 had qualifying scores and the average score was 2.94.