A new program is grooming Lee County teachers to help more students not only register for Advanced Placement courses, but also pass the AP exam.
The number of district students to take AP exams, a test that bestows college credit to those in advanced classes, increased this year by 73 percent. Now that the state is phasing out certain FCAT exams and replacing them with end-of-course exams to increase academic expectations, district officials also want as many students as possible signing up for AP.
"One of the things we're trying to do is increase participation," said Superintendent James Browder, who added that Lee County's increase in administered AP exams is one of the three largest statewide.
During a briefing to the school board on Tuesday, Patti Elkin, assistant director for Curriculum, described the Laying the Foundation Program, which is a three-year program for teachers to participate in hands-on models of lessons they can incorporate in the classroom.
Some of the training included exploring mass and density, using square footage, testing aerodynamics with model helicopters and looking at pendulum swings.
"The goals of the program is not only to improve instruction in AP courses, but provide that vertical alignment among schools, especially for transition from middle to high school," said Elkin.
Improvements are focused for AP classes in English, math and science, and officials are hoping that students who take the revamped courses are better prepared for college.
During the summer and fall of 2009, the district reported that 260 teachers completed the two first sessions of the training program, with 90 more invited to attend. Any teachers who completed their first two sessions in 2009 are scheduled for sessions three and four this June at South Fort Myers High.
Chief Academic Officer Connie Jones said teachers who finished the training program are sharing their information with others in the district.
"This is a three-year training, which can really help to build those skills. Cohorts are working with teachers in between trainings so that it is ongoing and sustained and not just someone coming in and out," said Jones.
Browder said he predicts that Cape Coral High and Riverdale High, both of which have newer International Baccalaureate programs than Fort Myers High, will see increases in the amount of students taking and passing AP exams.
"I predict one of the things you're going to see at Riverdale and Cape Coral High is gain in student achievement, because those teachers are going through the training they have to, to be successful," said Browder.