by NATHANIEL NELSON
With 347 students and a burgeoning pass rate, Advanced Placement (AP) courses at Winona Senior High School (WSHS) are having their best year in ages. According to recent numbers released by Winona Area Public Schools, 80 percent of students passed the AP exam with a three or better, receiving college credit for the course.
Twenty out of the 23 students who took the assessment for AP English language and composition received college credit, while 25 out of 30 received credit for U.S. government and politics and 27 out of 37 received credit for world history. According to WSHS Principal Mark Anderson, the pass rate is improving, but he hopes over the coming years that more students will take the courses.“We want to have rigorous opportunities for the future at the high school, and these courses are the best opportunity for the future,” Anderson said. “AP classes work at a whole different level, and we want to have [students] start having those experiences in our building.”
Right now, WSHS offers 10 different AP courses: composition, literature, world history, history, U.S. government and politics, Spanish, studio art, biology, calculus and environmental studies. Two additional courses, chemistry and physics, have been offered in the past and will be back on the docket next year. If a student gets a three or better on the final assessment, each class gives students college credit, depending on the university. Organizers say this is a benefit for all students, particularly those who come from a lower socioeconomic background.
“The more kids that take [the assessment], the more kids we’ll have that pass it. We want them to get college credit, and for parents, that is a big piece. When you take financial money off the top, that helps,” Anderson said.
In the last four years, the number of WSHS students taking AP courses has increased from 233 to 347, Anderson said, but that growth is just the start. “One of our goals is to get more students in all ethnic groups into all AP courses, and we’re seeing more students [of color] take it than before,” Anderson said. While the number is improving, Anderson said it’s still a slow growth and something on which the school needs to work.
To do this, WSHS requires no prerequisite to take AP courses, Anderson said, so students can take the courses no matter what track they are on. The only tricky course is calculus, which Anderson admitted would be fairly difficult for anyone who was not already on the honors track. “We’ve also opened up weighted grading this year per a request from the students. Now, kids are more interested in taking the AP courses because they know that their grades will be weighted,” Anderson added.
Additionally, WSHS will push to get more in-person registration for high school students. At the moment, around 91 percent of students register for classes with their parents on registration night, and Anderson said the goal is to reach that last nine percent. “We want to put parents in front of our teaches, and make sure students know they are capable,” Anderson explained.
Two years ago WSHS implemented a new program to honor students and their accomplishments by posting banners for students who passed the AP exam each year. “We have good recognition at our high school on the athletic side, but we decided it’s just as important to honor academics,” Anderson said. For each exam, if a student receives a three or better, their name is placed on the banner. Those who scored a perfect five on the exam receive a star next to their name.
With the new numbers in, a new set of banners is set to be hung over MEA weekend, and Anderson said his hope is that it brings more people to the courses. “We want to see more people take our AP and honors courses to learn more about what’s next — not just in college, but in their careers as well,” he stated.