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Monfredo: North High & South High Kickoff Rally For Ap Students

Sunday, October 16, 2016


This month I had the privilege of attending two rallies… one with a band and cheerleaders shouting out encouraging cheers and another one with cheerleaders echoing the words, “ LET’S GO A –V-I-D AND AP!”  No, it wasn’t a football game but a rally for students who signed up to take AP (advanced placement) courses.  The kickoffs took place at South and North High School. The atmosphere in both auditoriums was electric for the students were engaged and excited.  

For those who are not familiar with Advanced Placement courses here is a general definition… it’s a university level freshman course that you take in high school and there is a national exam for all students across the nation.  Scores on the exam range from 1-5 with 5 being the best.  However, with a score of 3 or higher you can earn college credit while still in high school.  Most importantly, passing an AP course will allow you to compete for college admission with students from all over the country.

At the rally, both principals, South High Principal Lynch and North High Principal Dyer emphasized the importance of working hard, putting in long hours, not being afraid to ask for help, and showing the colleges that you are prepared for the rigor of college life.   Perhaps Superintendent Binienda, former principal at South High and now Worcester’s superintendent, said it best at the South High rally, “AP is all about giving students the chance to change their lives.”   As all three leaders emphasized - now it’s up to students to take advantage of this opportunity and make it happen.  Both events had their partners in the AP process there.   Mass Insight, a not for profit organization,  started work with the schools in a block grant and when the initial grant expired after five years, the Commonwealth, along with other corporate donors and district contributions, have kept the program going.

The group spoke about the importance of AP courses and why the students should work hard to achieve success. The general overall goals of Mass Insight and the schools are to increase participation, increase performance with more qualifying scores and to increase college success with more students matriculating in and graduating from college.  North High started with Mass Insight in 2008 and South High in 2009.  They also have added  Burncoat High School, Worcester Technical High School and Claremont Academy in the last five years.  The focus has been on math, science and English.

At both events Mass Insight spoke to the students about college admissions and showed in their slide presentation that one of the most important parts of a student’s application that colleges consider as number one is the student’s course selection/grades in college prep courses and second on the list was the strength of their high school curriculum.  

The strength of this program is that the AP students have an opportunity that many other schools don’t have such as:

  • Saturday study sessions – a total of 12 hours of extra time on task or to put it another way if parents had to pay for a tutor it would be at $50 per hour at a cost of $600.00
  • Students get to interact with other students and get a sense of security and confidence about what they know and need to learn.
  • The students are exposed to other excellent teachers
  • A mock exam is given to the students for they get to sit and take an actual AP exam, receive a score and a detailed analysis of where they stand.
  • The students also get an  exam fee subsidy.

Patti Azzara of Mass Insights told me that she visits students near exam time and talks with them about how they feel about the upcoming test.   The question that she frequently asks the students is if they could go back to September, what would you do differently?  The students’ responses, according the Mrs. Azzara, are always the same… do all their work, do it on time, ask questions when they arise and give it their best and NO procrastination!  Now, that’s something that we need to emphasize with our AP students now!  

Here’s something else that our students also need to know.  An article in News Week showed that a college degree is increasingly valuable, in part because a high school diploma is less and less so.

“Those who question the value of college in this era of soaring student debt and high unemployment, the attitudes and experiences of today’s young adults—members of the so-called Millennial generation—provide a compelling answer. On virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment—from personal earnings to job satisfaction to the share employed full time—young college graduates are outperforming their peers with less education. And when today’s young adults are compared with previous generations, the disparity in economic outcomes between college graduates and those with a high school diploma or less formal schooling has never been greater in the modern era.”  The message to the students … get a college degree!

According to John Smolenski of Mass Insight, South High has been one of the most successful schools they have been in and there are over 100 high schools that they serve.  “They have the perfect combination of growing teacher capacity/instructional excellence … students willing to work and former principal of South High Maureen Binienda’s leadership.  Many suburban schools would love to trade places with them,” stated Mr. Smolenski.   Not to be forgotten, the other schools in Worcester are also showing growth and continue to move forward but have not reached the same growth level as South High.

Best wishes to our AP students for a successful school year and remember not to give up on yourself, for with assistance from the schools you will be successful!  I look forward in the late spring to write about your success in the AP exam.


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