Record Number of Students Take Advanced Courses

October 17, 2005
Over the last four years, the number of Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) fifth grade students enrolled in sixth grade math has grown exponentially. In addition, more than 66 percent of high school students are now enrolled in at least one Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors course, MCPS announced Monday.

In 2001, only 196 fifth grade students were enrolled in above-grade-level math classes, compared with more than 3,800 children taking these rigorous math classes in 2005. There also has been tremendous growth in the number of African American and Hispanic students enrolled in the math class, known as Math A. Four years ago, there was only a handful of African American and Hispanic students taking Math A, and in 2005 about 500 African American and 380 Hispanic students are enrolled in the course.

While MCPS leaders are pleased that 37 percent of all fifth graders are enrolled in sixth grade math or higher, the school system is working to expose even more students to higher-level math classes. If MCPS students are going to compete with their neighbors around the world in an increasingly shrinking global economy, they must be better prepared than ever before.

“We want all of our children taking rigorous courses in elementary and middle school so that they will be well prepared for higher-level math classes in high school and beyond,” said Dr. Jerry D. Weast, superintendent of schools. “Our students must be ready to compete in the world economy when they leave MCPS and that means Math A in fifth grade, Algebra in the eighth grade, and Calculus in the twelfth grade.

“We have revised our math curriculum and are continuing to revise our course pathways to break down barriers and expose more and more kids to challenging math classes as early as we can,” said Weast. “We are proving every day that every child can learn, and learn at high levels.”

“While we are certainly pleased with these numbers, we know we have to do more,” said Patricia B. O’Neill, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. “The world demands it, and we demand it of ourselves. We have to get as many kids as possible taking the most challenging courses so that they are prepared for the intense global competition that they will be facing.”

“I am very excited about the latest data released today by Montgomery County Public Schools,” said County Executive Douglas M. Duncan. “The data showing a nearly 2000 percent increase in fifth grade students enrolled in above-grade-level math, coupled with the 66 percent increase in high school students enrolled in at least one AP or Honors class, is tremendous news. This is further evidence that our initiatives aimed at having students reading on grade level by third grade, computing by eighth grade, and enrolling in AP and Honors courses by high school are making a huge impact.”

Enrollment numbers indicate that 31 percent of the students in the area of the county most impacted by poverty are taking Math A, compared with the countywide average of 37 percent. However, a greater percentage of African American students (22 percent) are taking the class in the impacted area compared with their counterparts in the area of the county with less poverty (19 percent).

Two-thirds of High School Students Take Advanced Placement and Honors Courses

The number of students enrolled in at least one AP or Honors class has increased for the fourth consecutive year. In 2001, 57 percent of students were enrolled in these challenging courses, and in 2005 the number jumped to 66 percent.

Enrollment data show strong growth in the number of African American and Hispanic students taking the rigorous AP and Honors curriculum. Forty-six percent of all African American students are now taking these courses, compared with 35 percent in 2001. Hispanic student enrollment has increased by 12 percent, from 33 percent to 45 percent.

“We know that there is a direct correlation between taking rigorous courses and doing well on the SAT. AP course work not only prepares students to do well on the SAT exam, but also gets them ready for the academic challenges of college,” said Weast.

The biggest increase in participation occurred among students with limited English proficiency, nearly doubling from 17 percent to 32 percent.

The increase in participation was spread across 23 high schools in the county. Twelve schools showed participation increases between 5 and 15 percentage points, and four schools had participation increases greater than 15 percent.

Thirty-nine percent of Montgomery County Public Schools graduating seniors from the Class of 2004 scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam while in high school—three times the national average of 13 percent and double the Maryland average of 19.4 percent.

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