Humboldt Unified School District currently offers the most Advanced Placement classes in Yavapai County, and will bump that number from 11 to 15 over the next three years as it begins an AP Academy program at Bradshaw Mountain High School. AP classes offer college level material and college credit hours while students attend high school.
Four new science courses - Biology, Physics I and II, and Chemistry - will join the other AP courses offered at the high school. BMHS Principal Kort Miner explained the "school within a school" model at the Jan. 14 HUSD governing board meeting. The board unanimously approved the AP Academy to applause from the audience.
One important component is a support class for AP students called Mentor Academy Period.
"AP students will have an AP advisor class period where the AP advisor will work with the students on organization skills, writing skills, computer skills, Socratic seminars, and academic questions," Miner said in his memo to the board.
In addition to support - something most schools with AP programs do not offer - the district will pay for all AP tests, which are $86 each. If students drop out of the AP Academy, but wish to continue taking other AP classes, they will pay for their own future test costs. They are not required to reimburse the district for past AP test expenses, something other districts mandate, Miner said. Also, the district covers the cost of PSAT fees and either the SAT or ACT fee for Academy students.
Several years ago, parents and students at the high school worked to get an Honors Classical Academy in place, but it never got off the ground. Bradshaw has a Gold and Silver Diploma program in which students earn 24 credits - instead of the required 22 - with a C grade or better for the Silver Diploma, and the same plus at least four AP classes with a "3" score or better on at least two AP tests for the Gold.
The AP Academy requires students to pass seven AP courses and complete a Capstone Community Service Project in their senior year. Each senior class will choose a hands-on project that will "leave a legacy" in the community, Miner said.
Eighth-graders can get a start on the AP Academy by taking honors and Pre-AP courses. Freshman year, students would take Pre-AP English; Pre-AP Geometry, Algebra II or Pre-AP Algebra 1/Geometry; Pre-AP Biology, Physical Education, one elective and the MAP support class. Sophomore through senior year, students can elect out of MAP support if they are not in need of the extra help.
The scheduling allows for all students in choir, band, AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) and JTED to be part of the AP Academy.
Miner said at a Jan. 13 School Improvement Team council meeting, he originally brought the idea to Bradshaw's SIT council, and after hearing from community members, parents and teachers, the program changed from "pretty prescribed" to a more flexible model.
Most state colleges give credit hours for high school AP courses if students earn a 4 or 5 score on the test, with some courses allowing a 3 score.
Beginning in the 2014-2015 school year, the freshmen class is eligible to enter the AP Academy with its first year of pre-AP courses. Miner said an interview process will look at freshmen's performance and work ethic; a motivated student made override a "C" grade, for instance.
The district will add AP Biology in 2014-2015 with costs for textbooks, teacher training, and lab kits about $11,800. Year Two adds AP Chemistry with similar costs, plus $12,900 in AP test fees for about 75 students taking two tests for $24,875.
AP Physics arrives in Year Three, with 75 students taking two AP tests and 50 students taking three, for $32,000. For Year Four and after, possible training costs for new teachers, lab kits and 150 students taking two or three AP tests would run $36,450.
Textbooks and teacher training are one-time costs; lab kits are an annual purchase. HUSD Finance Director Cynthia Windham said the textbooks and lab kits are capital items and will come out of the capital budget, and the maintenance and operations budget would pay for teacher training.
"From time to time we do have grants," she added.
Miner said a former AP student recently graduated from university in three years instead of four because he took AP courses, saving the family $16,600.
"I don't see how we can not afford to do this," board member Carm Staker said. "We owe it to the kids, the parents and the district."