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Stats show FUHS AP, Honors classes rank high

While many other high schools in the region are being forced to cut back and offer fewer classes to their students, Director of Student Services Dr. Shawn Wirth and Fallbrook Union High School (FUHS) Assistant Principal John Hayek want to share a “shining light” with Fallbrook’s community.

“Everyone talks about the API numbers and the ‘Program Improvement’ for the district, however, no one talks about how successful the high school’s Advanced Placement (AP) and Honors programs are,” said Hayek.

There are over a dozen AP courses offered to the students of FUHS, including AP Calculus, AP Euro History, AP Studio Art, AP Music Theory and AP Art History.

According to a presentation by Wirth, there are 443 students enrolled in AP classes, with 362 students taking at least one AP class. There are currently 789 students enrolled in Honors courses, meant for ninth and tenth grade students.

According to the San Diego County AP Comparison data, Fallbrook’s AP students had a 75.66 percent passing rate in the 2006-2007 academic year; a 62.59 percent passing rate in the 2007-2008 academic year; and a 70.50 percent passing rate in the 2008-2009 academic year.

In comparison, Oceanside High School had a 30.58 percent passing rate, 32.8 percent passing rate and 43.3 percent passing rate in the same respective years; Temecula Valley High School had a 57 percent passing rate, 49.9 percent passing rate and 56.10 passing rate for the same years. Great Oak High School students in Temecula had 52.14 percent, 49.06 percent and 55.5 percent passing rates in those respective years, while Guajome Park Academy saw 20 percent, 14.30 percent, and 26.50 percent passing rates.

“The students in our AP classes outscore those other districts by far,” said Hayek. “When people request interdistrict transfers, we show them a comparison of how are students are doing in regards with the rest of the county and state. Usually, parents choose to keep their students here because of what we show them.”

“Some students have transferred to neighboring districts, only to come back because we had higher performing AP classes,” said Wirth.

In order to pass their AP courses, students are graded on a 1 to 5 grading scale. In order to pass, the students must pass with a score of 3 or higher. This year, 82.50 percent of Fallbrook’s AP students have passed.

“The passing rate of our students is phenomenally high,” said Wirth. “It amazes me. Additionally, research has found that success in AP courses has a high correlation to success in college.”

According to the College Board, out of the 476 exams taken by AP students, 26 percent (122) of them resulted in a 5, the highest grade achievable; 27 percent resulted in a 4; 30 percent resulted in a 3; 13 percent resulted in a 2; and four percent resulted in a 1.

“Because the AP courses are college-level courses, colleges grant the passing grades as college credit,” said Hayek. “This can save students time and money upon entering college.”

While there are certain benchmarks used to place students into Honors and AP courses, Hayek said every student has a right to enter the classes.

“These classes have open enrollment,” he said. “We would love to see an increase in our student participation.”

Currently, 25 percent of the FUHS student population is taking an Honors or AP course. The goal is to have 30 percent of students taking at least one advanced course.

Hayek believes that while not every student will be able to have a full plate of advanced courses, students should try to take one or two courses in their strongest subjects.

“I had a student who was taking five AP classes, while his brother was taking his first AP course as a junior,” said Hayek. “In some counties, there are requirements for taking the advanced courses, such as taking the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT), but here, the students don’t have to. We believe that if a parent is thinking about enrolling their student in an advanced course, they should be able to.”

“If a student is interested in taking the course, we have the parent sign a waiver to give them permission,” said Wirth. “We do suggest teacher recommendation. In addition, if a parent and student are considering advanced placement, we have counseling available to discuss options.”

“Students do not have to be ‘gifted and talented’ to be successful in AP courses,” said Wirth. “They have to be highly motivated and have a good work ethic. If they have those qualities, there are no barriers for them.”

Students taking AP courses have a large variety of venues to help them succeed in their courses. According to Hayek, some courses, such as AP French, are offered online.

“We try to use different avenues to get kids what they need,” said Hayek, who also stated that there is financial support for students that need to take the AP testing but are from low-income homes.

“These are our most highly motivated students,” said Hayek. “We offer after school programs, and study sessions in the evenings and on the weekends to help them succeed.”

“If students are on the fence about taking a class, we tell them they should try one,” said Wirth. “If the student is not overloaded, he or she will be successful. They will find that their vigorous work is worth it.”

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