SHS receives $250,000 grant for AP program
by Emily Adams
SYLACAUGA – Sylacauga High School was recently awarded a grant that is expected to total about $250,000 over the next three years.

The A-plus College Ready initiative, a national math and science program, will provide SHS with approximately $85,000 a year to fund professional development and resources necessary to increase the school’s Advanced Placement course offerings. The A-plus initiative works to expand the number of AP courses offered and also the number of students receiving qualifying scores on AP exams, which can count as college credit.

“The timing of this for Sylacauga couldn’t be any more perfect, and we’re excited for a lot of reasons,” said SHS Principal Matt Hubbard. “We’ve got different changes going on within the state and the system; we’re going into the new addition with state-of-the art classrooms next year, and we now have the opportunity to jump in with this A-plus curriculum to push that top percentage of students to their highest level.”

The school currently offers AP courses in English, world history and calculus, and of about 70 AP students, less than five take AP exams each year, according to AP coordinator Sean Stevens. With this grant, however, the school plans to implement five additional courses in subjects like biology, physics, language arts and U.S. government starting next school year, and it will offer multiple sessions of each course. Selected teachers will attend three-day AP Institute training this summer, with additional workshops throughout the year, to prepare to instruct these classes.

Another change will be the requirements to get into an AP course. Assessment coordinator Carol Martin said they aim to open the classes up to a wider variety of students, rather than basing admission solely on grades. Students will also be required to take the AP exam, with the grant covering about half of the $85 test fee. They anticipate 40-50 students in each course. In addition, they hope to use the grant to support pre-AP classes for sixth, seventh and eighth grades down the line, Martin said.

“Our vision is to prepare every student, every graduate for those college, career and community standards,” Martin said. “One of the exciting parts of this is that we’re not only broadening the teachers and courses, but we’re inviting more students to try work at the AP, college-ready level.”

The school received the grant after submitting an application and having a site visit from A-plus representatives.

“I think the whole system and the city should be proud that A-plus saw that we were ‘ripe,’ as they said,” Martin said. “Sylacauga is just ripe and perfect for this. They were very complementary of the work that our high school already does.”

Martin said this grant is somewhat unique in that it will directly support student instruction and development. Hubbard said they expect the benefits of this added program to spread throughout the city.

“As our community is trying to attract business and industry here, one of the first things they do is look at the school system, and when they see a legitimate AP program from the sixth grade through graduation, that’s attractive to them,” he said. “Not only as a parent and an administrator, but as a citizen, this has a huge ripple effect in our community. It’s a calling card.”

The total money granted will slightly vary, depending on costs of teacher training and student supplies, but was estimated at $85,000 a year based on the size of the school system. Funding is provided through a partnership between the nonprofit organization National Math and Science, private sector support and state and federal money.

A-plus College Ready has seen impressive results in improving student performance on AP exams. From 2008 to 2012, Alabama moved from 46th in the nation to 34th in the increase in qualifying scores in AP math, science and English per 1,000 juniors and seniors, according to statistics from A-plus.

Participating students have earned 9,238 qualifying scores in math, science and English over four years. If at least three college credit hours were awarded for each of those scores, with the average cost of a three-hour course at a public university being around $1,000, savings to Alabama families would exceed $10 million, A-plus estimates.

For more information on the A-plus program, visit

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© 2013