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AP honors all around
High schools recognized for science, math
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AP students Katie Nolley, left, and Emily Patterson study Wednesday at South Forsyth High. It and the county’s other four high schools have been named Advanced Placement STEM Achievement Schools. - photo by Autumn Vetter

When it comes to math and science, Forsyth County’s high schools are making the grade.

State School Superintendent John Barge announced Tuesday that all five high schools in the county system are Advanced Placement STEM Achievement Schools.

To be honored, the schools had to have students test in at least two Advanced Placement, or AP, math courses and two AP science courses during their high school career, and at least 40 percent of them score a passing grade of 3 or higher.

“I was very pleased,” said Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Buster Evans. “When you see all five schools being recognized, it really shows that … all schools across the district are really stepping up to the challenge.”

STEM — short for science, technology, engineering and math — has been a big focus for Forsyth schools, especially at Forsyth Central High, which opened its STEM Academy this year.

Central High Principal Rudy Hampton said he was “excited and very pleased” about the honor.

“As home to Forsyth County’s STEM Academy, our designation as one of 87 AP STEM Achievement Schools in Georgia is a reflection of our teachers’ commitment to providing rigorous core classes combined with career-technical course offerings,” he said.

“We have had much success with delivering real-world STEM experiences for our students, and are honored to be noted on such a prestigious list.”

Barge also announced the 2012 AP Merit Schools, where at least 20 percent of students took AP exams in 2011 and at least 50 percent of them earned a passing score.

Four of the county’s high schools earned that distinction. North Forsyth didn’t make the list, likely because it has more students than the others, said Kelly Price, the system’s curriculum coordinator.

“They’re our highest enrollment school,” she said. “They’d have to have a larger number of students taking the AP courses.”

The school had 22.6 percent of its students enroll in AP classes, but not every student opts to take an exam, Price said.

Some students know their college of choice won’t give credit for the AP exam, but Price said it’s also about the cost.

In previous years, the state would pay for one AP test per student. But in the past few years, Price said that policy has changed and parents are left to foot the $90 bill per exam, which could mean fewer test-takers.

For those who do take the test, the results are impressive, Price said.

“In some districts, the focus isn’t on test performance,” she said. “But we’ve been able to maintain both a high enrollment and a high performance rate.

“When you look at the AP merit schools, there’s only 44 schools listed on that page … the fact that we got four out of five, when you look at it from that perspective, we did really well.”

On average, 36 percent of the county’s high school students are enrolled in AP classes.

South Forsyth High had the highest rate of AP enrollment at nearly 52 percent.

“Georgia has much to be proud of when it comes to the success of Advanced Placement,” Superintendent Barge said. “Much of this success can be attributed to the dedication to rigor and excellence at each of our AP Honor Schools.”

By scoring a 3 or higher on the exam, students can receive college credit for the course. Evans said it’s a jump start to work they’ll do following high school.

“It’s a benefit for their college and their career,” he said. “Sometimes we’ll see students who take the path of least resistance, but our students … often times they’re taking four or five AP courses a year.

“It shows a tremendous work ethic for our students.”