More students than ever in the Council Bluffs Community School District earned college credits last year by taking dual-credit courses or passing College Board Advanced Placement tests.
A total of 3,036 students enrolled in either advanced placement or concurrent enrollment courses during the 2017-18 school year — a new record, according to information presented by Julie Smith, executive director of secondary education, during the board of education’s workshop meeting Tuesday. That included 1,618 girls and 1,418 boys. Boys narrowed the enrollment gap between girls and boys enrolling in the classes with an increase of 91 participants, while the number of girls dropped by four.
The growth came in concurrent enrollment classes, where a record 1,152 boys and a high of 1,242 girls enrolled for a total of 2,394 students. That does not include CBCSD students who took classes online or on the Iowa Western Community College campus, she said.
The number of offerings in the two categories has changed since 2011, noted Corey Vorthmann, chief academic officer.
“We had 12 AP courses at that time and 28 concurrent classes,” he said.
The district now offers 10 AP classes and 33 concurrent classes, Smith said.
“The increase in advanced coursework over the past eight years is part of our goal to help kids achieve more and have more opportunities,” Vorthmann said.
One of the students who has taken advantage of that is Abraham Lincoln High School senior Caleb Fitch, an Advanced Placement Scholar with Distinction. Caleb has taken AP tests in human geography, U.S. history, language and composition, biology and world history — and passed them all. He has also taken some concurrent enrollment courses.
“I think I’ve got about 47 hours of college credit,” he said, which may transfer differently depending on what college he attends. In any case, it should give him a good head start in college, where he plans to study business.
Expanding dual-credit offerings can be challenging, because it requires teachers with the credentials to teach college-level classes, Vorthmann said. A concurrent enrollment chemistry class was added this year at Thomas Jefferson High School but is still not offered at Abraham Lincoln because the school lacks an instructor with the required training. The district allows students to go to a different school building to take advanced classes, but that is difficult for students with a full schedule. Teachers are encouraged to pursue advanced degrees and certifications.
At Abraham Lincoln, enrollment was up in both advanced placement and concurrent enrollment classes among both girls and boys, according to the report Smith presented. At Thomas Jefferson, the number of boys in concurrent enrollment courses was up, but the number of girls in concurrent enrollment classes was down. The number of both girls and boys was down in advanced placement classes.
Students do not have to pay for the college credits they earn, Vorthmann said. The state provides funding through supplemental weighting, and the school district makes up the difference.
As far as testing, 56 percent of students who took advancement placement exams passed, setting another record. Although more students took more exams during the 2010-11 school year — 244 students attempted credit on 318 tests that year, compared to 125 taking 180 tests last year — only 26 percent passed the exams in 2010-11.
At Abraham Lincoln, a record 64 percent passed their AP exams. At Thomas Jefferson, 39 percent passed, down from last year’s all-time high of 45 percent.
Students have to pay a testing fee to take the exams, but the district does not turn anyone away because of ability to pay, Vorthmann said. The Council Bluffs Schools Foundation helps make that possible.