Iowa students struggle to make the grade on AP tests - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Iowa students struggle to make the grade on AP tests


High school is supposed to prepare students for their next step in to the real world.

And, for many students, that includes attending college, but not all students are scoring high in one specific area that's designed to get them ahead before they even step on campus.

Two options for "college level" courses are available to students in Sioux City, concurrent enrollment, or advanced placement classes, commonly known as APs.

School officials said a majority of the students in the school system choose to enroll in concurrent classes over AP courses

"We have probably, nine to one, ten to one students taking the concurrent enrollment courses versus the AP courses," Secondary Education Director Jim Vanderloo said.

This means about 2,500 students are taking concurrent enrollment courses whereas, only 350 students between all three Sioux City high schools are taking APs.

Students can begin taking concurrent enrollment courses in 10th grade, but school officials said most AP courses are taken in 11th or 12th grade. The concurrent courses use a college syllabus and there are a lot more choices offered in the Sioux City High schools for these kinds of classes.

"The concurrent enrollment courses tend to be very specific to an area of interest, profession, a field of study that the student wants to go in to. The AP courses tend to be very general and specific to a core content area and not directly related to a field of study," Vanderloo said.

"I feel like AP classes are harder than concurrent classes," East High School Senior Lauren Tidwell said.

And, according to statistics from the "10th Annual AP Report to the Nation," many Iowa students seem to agree. Only 11.1% of students in Iowa passed the AP exam in 2013 with a necessary score of 3 or higher. The national average rate of passage was 20.1%.

Tidwell took AP Chemistry last year and said the class was rigorous.

"There's a lot of focus on the test and you can put in a lot of work to the AP exam and then not pass it, and then you don't get the credit, so it's a lot more pressure," Tidwell said.

She didn't receive college credit from taking the course, but she said it was still a good experience.

"Even though, I didn't do well,  I learned a lot in the class. So, even at a college Chem 1 class, I think I will still be ahead of the game," Tidwell said.

And, now, Tidwell is enrolled in two other AP courses for this year that she says she feels more prepared for. Other students who took AP Chemistry with her opted out additional APs.

"It's a lot of information, the advanced placement courses, there's a lot of outside the classroom work that you have to commit to. I mean, hours upon hours outside the class, and that didn't quite fit with my schedule," East High School Senior Nick Croston said.

Croston is taking several concurrent classes this year instead.

"The material is still advanced, but you do not have to take the test at the end of the year. I think I get more out of it because there's not that pressure that this information needs to be engrained in my mind our I'm not going to do well on the AP test," Croston said.

School officials said these concurrent credits are transferable to most schools in the region and community colleges while AP credits can be applied to universities nationwide.

School officials said they see enrollment increasing in both AP courses and concurrent enrollment classes.

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