A.P. classes give high school students a leg up on college | SteamboatToday.com

A.P. classes give high school students a leg up on college

Mike McCollum

Steamboat Springs High School Advanced Placement biology teacher Cindy Gay conducts a lecture in her classroom in Steamboat Springs on Wednesday afternoon.

Steamboat Springs — Andy Mucklow will enter his first college classroom in about eight months, but the Steamboat Springs High School student is already well versed in the rigor of academia after loading up on advanced placement classes his senior year. — Andy Mucklow will enter his first college classroom in about eight months, but the Steamboat Springs High School student is already well versed in the rigor of academia after loading up on advanced placement classes his senior year.

— Andy Mucklow will enter his first college classroom in about eight months, but the Steamboat Springs High School student is already well versed in the rigor of academia after loading up on advanced placement classes his senior year.

“A lot of the A.P. classes I’m taking are basically the next class to take,” Mucklow said Wednesday during an A.P. biology class, one of his three A.P. classes.

American history and English round out Mucklow’s advanced placement slate.

“It’s definitely a jump up from the high school-level work,” he said.

The high school offers seven advanced placement courses. The number of students enrolled in them has almost tripled – from 44 to 116 – since the 1999-2000 school year.

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“I’ve been teaching A.P. biology here for four years, and when I first started teaching it, there were 16 kids in my class – I have 56 now,” said Cindy Gay, a former biology professor at the University of Colorado. She attributed the swelling enrollment to increased competitiveness for college admission.

“The purpose of A.P. is that this is a college-level class,” she said. “So I teach this class to the same level of rigor (as) when I was a professor at CU-Boulder, where I taught freshman biology. I teach this class just like I teach that.”

High school students enrolled in A.P. classes can receive college credit by scoring high on an exam administered by The College Board, which oversees the A.P. program.

Gay said many high schools judge their advanced placement programs based on the number of students who receive a three, four or five on the test. A three is the benchmark for passing the test and receiving college credit, while five is the highest score possible. In Steamboat, all students with the proper prerequisite courses are welcome in advanced placement.

“Some schools restrict entrance to a program where only the higher-achieving students may enroll,” Gay said. “Of my 56 kids, I pretty much have the same number of students who are special education as the rest of the school. But these kids are here because they love biology.”

Principal Mike Knezevich said the school has continued to increase its A.P. class offerings.

“Our philosophy is, if a kid gets a three, four or five on the A.P. exam, then that is wonderful, but sitting for the exam itself is a very powerful thing,” he said. “Maybe they thought they are not at that level yet to take a college-level course, but it’s a huge accomplishment and a boost to them if they succeed.”

College credit, improving transcripts for college admission, getting a jumpstart on required college courses and a future in medicine are some of the reasons students enrolled in Gay’s class – as the students stated in a survey – but Gay noted that 86 percent of her students said they enrolled due to a love for biology.

“Who am I to say they are not good enough to do biology,” she said. “They all struggle, and that is the point, but they all can be successful, too.”

For Mucklow, the reason he took A.P. biology was simple. There were no other biology classes to take.

“It’s pretty rigorous, there are so many aspects to grasp,” he said. “But this is a continuation of everything we learned in 10th grade. This class – A.P. biology – I’m just really interested in it.”

– To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com