The number of students taking at least one Advanced Placement exam has nearly doubled in 10 years, to 1.1 million members of the class of 2016, according to a new report from The College Board.
While access to AP classes is growing nationwide, high schools in rural districts still struggle to offer these rigorous courses that can lead to college credit. Less than one half of rural districts have no secondary students in AP courses, according to a 2015 report by the University of New Hampshire.
Some rural high schools and districts use technology and other methods to offer AP courses to students.
Deer Isle-Stonington High School in Maine, a school with around 100 students located on a sparsely populated island, only has one AP class this year – AP Calculus – says principal Todd West. The school has offered AP English and AP U.S. History in the past, but it depends on student interest, he says.
But while there is only one AP class at Deer Isle-Stonington, teens can take many more AP courses online for free through Maine’s AP4ALL program.
Through the state-funded online program, students have access to more than 22 AP courses during the 2016-2017 school year, including Latin and macroeconomics.
Students at Deer Isle-Stonington participating in the program do their AP coursework either at home or at school, depending on the student, West says. Students have an adult mentor at school, a requirement of the program, and take AP exams in the spring at school, he says. His school pays the AP exam fees, he says.
“It’s a great thing to be able to offer kids in small schools,” West says.
In Colorado, three rural schools worked together to offer more AP classes using funds from the Colorado Legacy Schools project, a program aiming to increase and diversify AP participation in certain courses, according to a 2016 article. The program is sponsored by Colorado Education Initiative, an education nonprofit.
The schools were located within about 30 miles. They rearranged their schedules and created video conference classrooms to triple the amount of AP classes offered to students, the publication reported.
Many rural schools offer college-level dual enrollment classes.
Colton-Pierrepont Central School in New York is located about an hour and a half from Ottawa, Canada, says Joseph Kardash, superintendent of the district, which covers more than 250 square miles. There are about 320 students in pre-K through 12th grade.
This year, four AP courses are being offered, he says. But students can take many college-credit courses with partnering local colleges through the school’s robust dual enrollment program.
Students can take French, Spanish, career and finance, and more courses with nearby institutions. The courses are taught at the Colton-Pierrepont Central School by educators approved by the colleges, he says. Students earn college and high school credit upon completion.
It’s advantageous for students to have three college credits on a transcript, rather than see if students will receive credit based on one test at the end of the year, he says.
Some students at Colton-Pierrepont may be able to earn high school credit for online college courses they choose to take as well, says Kardash. Deer Isle-Stonington offers dual enrollment courses with colleges and universities online, says West.
“As our enrollments have gone down, we’ve had to offer fewer things at school,” West says. “Having the technology-based offerings has allowed us to keep providing that to students.”