LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish school system’s proposed changes to a grading scale for students in Advanced Placement courses are designed to encourage more students to take them without fear of damaging their grade point averages, district officials said Wednesday.
“One of the barriers for students in terms of enrolling in AP is TOPS,” said Randy Bernard, a district academic specialist, referring to the state-supported Taylor Opportunity Program for Students scholarships that covers college tuition for qualifying students.
“Students are afraid that they may lose their TOPS qualifications if they’re taking harder courses because they may make a lower grade than they would in an easier class,” Bernard said.
According to the proposed policy change, students in AP classes will be graded on a 4.5 grading scale, rather than the traditional 4.0 scale where an “A” is worth four points. Students taking the end-of-year AP exam to receive college credit for course work will have the course weighted on a 5.0 scale.
The AP grading scale change is among the revisions to the district’s pupil progression plan, which also involves student attendance, promotions and retention and which the School Board heard about July 18. The board will vote on the plan on Aug. 1 and the Louisiana Department of Education must approve it.
Last school year, 300 Lafayette Parish high school students enrolled in AP courses, but the number of end-of-year AP exam test takers was not available, Bernard said. In the 2010-11 school year, 113 Lafayette Parish high school students took the end-of-course AP exam, state education officials said.
In 2011, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education required schools to offer two AP courses beginning in the 2012-13 school year and at least one additional course each year in the following two school years, said Judy Huckabay, the district’s acting assistant director of special education.
Last school year, Lafayette High offered several AP courses, while Acadiana, Northside and Carencro each offered one AP course, Bernard said.
In the upcoming school year, high schools will continue to offer on-campus AP courses, but students will also be able to select from at least five online AP course options, Huckabay said.
Last school year, 127 high schools across the state offered AP courses with 26 different AP courses taught in Louisiana, state Department of Education spokesman Barry Landry said in an e-mail.
To help districts expand AP opportunities, the state is training at least 300 teachers this year and by the first week of August, at least 241 teachers will have received training in both pre-AP and AP content areas, Landry said.
In Lafayette Parish, local funding to train at least 10 more teachers in AP content has been provided in Superintendent Pat Cooper’s district turnaround plan, Huckabay said.
Bernard said Louisiana students lag in AP course exam participation.
“Louisiana right now ranks 49th in the nation in terms of the number of students that take advanced placement exams,” he said. “Only 5.6 percent of the 2011 graduating class passed an AP exam in Louisiana.”
Students who take the AP courses are not required to take the end-of-course exam, which is graded on a five-point scale.
Three points is considered a passing score and the minimum needed to receive college credit for coursework.
The AP experience prepares students for success after high school, Bernard said.
“There’s a lot of research out there to show that advanced placement coursework is beneficial to students when they get to college,” he said. “They tend to keep their scholarships more than their peers, a far greater percentage graduate on time and they tend to make better grades.”