Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Serra High Advanced Placement grant ups the number of AP students

Students in Elizabeth Ward's Advanced Placement English class at Serra High School had some high-level visitors: US Representative Scott Peters (D-San Diego), Board of Education President Kevin Beiser, Superintendent Cindy Marten and local military leaders.
In an AP class
Rep. Peters (D-San Diego) and Supt. Marten join teacher Elizabeth Ward in working with students on Advanced Placement English projects.
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The reason for the VIPs? Encouragement for their performances on the Advanced Placement Tests coming up soon — the weeks of May 5 and 12.The school's nearly 25 percent increase in Advanced Placement class enrollment is part of Serra High's college-going culture, but also a result of a three-year, $716,000 grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) and a program from the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI).

Advanced Placement tests allow students to take challenging, college level classes in high school, then take an exam that, should they get a high-enough score, will be accepted by universities and colleges. The student not only passes a graduation requirement at the university, but in most cases also receives credits for the work.

In his remarks to students, Board of Education President Kevin Beiser noted that the grant, which is being used to add classes, special tutoring sessions, mock tests and help families pay for the exams, not only helps students earn college credit while still in high school, but it challenges all the students at Serra.

"By furthering the established college-going culture that Principal Mike Jimenez and his staff have created, whether or not a student is a military dependent has less of an impact," said Beiser. "This grant is raising the bar for everyone on this campus, whether they’re a student, teacher or staff member. It’s what continues to make Serra one of the top schools in our district."

To mark the first anniversary of the grant's award, Beiser joined Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego); Superintendent Cindy Marten; Col. John Farnham, Commanding Officer, MCAS Miramar; Capt. Curt Jones, Commanding Officer, Naval Base San Diego; and Dale Fleury, Senior Regional Director for NMSI.
Beiser also noted that with a student population that is nearly 30 percent military dependent, it is an obligation of the San Diego Unified School District to support the children of America's soldiers, sailors and marines.

"There isn’t a big city in the world that has more of a commitment and appreciation of the sacrifice of our sailors, marines and other members of the military than San Diego," he said. "And I don’t believe there’s a school district that has more of a commitment to educating their dependents than San Diego Unified."

Superintendent Cindy Marten said the grant aligns with the district's Vision 2020 plan by challenging the students to achieve, helping train teachers to create higher quality teaching and professional learning, raising expectations for students at Serra High and helping to close the achievement gap, and encouraging members of the community to get involved in schools.

"This grant is an important partnership between the Department of Defense, the National Math and Science Initiative and Serra High School," she said.

The large Murphy Canyon military housing complex is within Serra's enrollment boundaries and several other military housing neighborhoods are nearby.

The three-year grant has boosted the number of students taking tests this year to 604 and has funded special Saturday practice sessions for the Advanced Placement students. Mock tests — with a critique of the students' work — have also been used to help get the students ready.

The grant has also reduced the cost of the tests for families from $89 to $45 for most families; students from low-income families pay just $5 per test. As many students take more than one Advanced Placement class, the reduction in price allows families to afford more tests.

Facts and Figures

  • Serra High School Enrollment: 1,762.
  • Students who are military dependents: 466.
  • Students taking AP classes: 2013-14, 681; 2012-13, 546.
  • Number of passing (grade 3 or above) AP tests: 2012-13, 207; 2013-14 (target): 330.
  • National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI): NMSI was formed to address one of this nation’s greatest economic and intellectual threats — the declining number of students who are prepared to take rigorous college courses in math and science and equipped for careers in those fields. This crucial project was initiated as a public-private partnership, led by private donors such as Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.
  • Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA): With a mission of "Educate, Engage, and Empower each student to succeed in a dynamic world," the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) administers schools on United States military bases around the world and is involved with public schools that have large numbers of dependent students. DoDEA is a field activity of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. It is headed by a director who oversees all agency functions from DoDEA headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.