Urbana High only downstate school honored for AP classes

Urbana High only downstate school honored for AP classes

URBANA — For the second consecutive year, Urbana's school district is being honored by the College Board's AP Honor Roll, which recognizes gains in how students can access Advanced Placement classes and how well they score on AP tests.

Fewer than 400 districts around the country and Canada are on the list, and Urbana is the only one in downstate Illinois.

High school Principal Laura Taylor said she's excited because the school has been working to improve its Advance Placement offerings and support for the last several years.

Nine years ago, the school had three of the classes, which allow students to take a test when they complete the class. If they score high enough, most colleges will grant credit hours for the classes.

Now, the school has 15 classes and is hoping to add one or two more, Taylor said.

Not only is the school offering more Advanced Placement classes, more students are taking the tests and the school has found more ways to support them better.

For example, freshman, sophomores and juniors can take AP prep classes, and all freshman and sophomores have access to certified teachers for 25 minutes a day to get extra help.

The school has also started recognizing students who are doing well in college prep classes and asking if they'd like to take an Advance Placement class or prep course, she said.

"We have just raised the bar across the board to provide more support for kids so they can be more successful in rigorous courses," Taylor said.

The school also tries to make sure that a student can take a test, even if he or she can't afford the $87 fee.

"We work really hard to make sure we can help support them," Taylor said.

Urbana has nearly doubled the number of students taking Advanced Placement tests, from 45 to 86 since 2009, according to a release from the district. The percentage of its students scoring 3 or higher on the test has been consistently higher than the national and global average at least since 2007, according to a chart from Taylor. For example, in 2011, 81 percent of Urbana students scored 3 or higher, compared with 66 percent nationally and 60 percent worldwide.

Taylor said students who score that high can save money because it will earn them college credit. Nine Urbana alums who went to the University of Illinois accumulated 99 credit hours among them, Taylor said.

She said she believes the classes make a difference for everyone at the school.

"I think it raises the level of rigor across the building," Taylor said, as the only classes offered are college prep, advanced placement prep classes and the Advanced Placement classes themselves.

"I think it just raises the bar for everybody," she said.