Gilroy AP students under perform

GILROY
– Yet another set of standardized test scores indicate Gilroy
High School students, in this instance the elite ones, underperform
when compared to counterparts outside the Gilroy Unified School
District.
GILROY – Yet another set of standardized test scores indicate Gilroy High School students, in this instance the elite ones, underperform when compared to counterparts outside the Gilroy Unified School District.

Principal Bob Bravo last week released results from the Advanced Placement exams taken in spring 2002. Out of the 21 AP subjects tested locally, GHS students were outperformed on 17 of those subject exams, in subjects such as environmental science, biology, music theory, French, English literature and calculus.

“Some classes were real competitive and others were not as competitive as we want them to be,” summarized Bravo late last week.

At a November school board session, GHS will present its scores to trustees. Bravo said he and his staff were putting together a report that would show whether Gilroy High elite students were at least showing improvement in recent years.

“I don’t have the longitudinal data pulled together yet, but that’s what we’re working on,” Bravo said.

AP courses are among the most rigorous at the high school level. Students who pass the corresponding standardized test at the end of the year can receive college course credit.

AP exams are graded on a scale of 1 to 5. A score of 3 or better typically is considered passing by most universities.

Bravo said the AP program, in general, is a young program at Gilroy High. He said as teachers receive more data regarding student performance, they can use it to amend, for instance, certain lesson plans and better address students strengths and weaknesses. After time, he expects scores to rise, he said.

The four subjects in which GHS students tallied more passing scores than other students were: economics, U.S. government and politics, and two separate Spanish language courses. AP Spanish teacher Elia Scettrini was pleased, but not surprised, with her students’ performances.

“I push them. It starts with the first year they take Spanish,” said Scettrini, a seven-year veteran at GHS. “The whole department deserves credit.”

When Scettrini first began teaching AP Spanish four years ago, she was disappointed that very few Spanish speaking students were enrolled, she said.

After she familiarized herself with the AP course and test requirements, she realized that her Spanish II class for Spanish speakers was doing equivalent work.

Over time, Scettrini got more Spanish speaking students to enroll in AP Spanish, and over the last few years she has seen the dividends her guidance has produced.

On the AP Spanish exam that Scettrini’s students took, 87 percent of local students received scores of 3 or better. That number outranks global student performance by 10 percentage points. Nearly 30 percent of those students garnered a top score of 5.

“Some people think AP Spanish is easy for Spanish speakers, but that’s like saying any English speaker should get As in English grammar classes,” Scettrini said.

Of Scettrini’s 32 students, 27 of them have parents who speak Spanish and roughly 10 of those had some level of schooling in Mexico, she said.

In some cases, says Scettrini, Spanish classes are even more difficult for Spanish speakers. She explains that just because someone is fluent in Spanish, it doesn’t mean they will use correct grammar. And in those cases where someone has used incorrect grammar their entire life, breaking that habit is difficult.

“I wish I had these opportunities when I was in school. Back then not much was expected of Mexican-American students,” said Scettrini. “If they do well in AP classes now, they are better prepared for success later in life, at job interviews and college tests,” continued Scettrini.

Incidentally, GHS English speaking students taking the English language and composition AP test were outperformed globally by 10 percentage points.

The tests were taken by students nationally and internationally.

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