SW DeKalb High earns national honor for AP scores

Southwest DeKalb High School is one of just 14 schools recognized by the College Board today for leading the nation in helping African American and/or Latino students to succeed on Advanced Placement exams. It is the only Georgia school on the list.

Sponsored by the College Board, AP classes are college-level courses taught in high schools. Students who want college credit must take an exam in each class, and typically score a 3 or higher on a 5-scale to obtain college credit. (Colleges differ on which scores they require.)

According to the College Board:

More than half a million public school students from the class of 2010 scored a 3 or higher on at least one AP Exam during high school, nearly double the number of successful students from the class of 2001, and exceeding the total number of students from the class of 2001 who took AP Exams . As research consistently shows that students who score a 3 or higher on AP Exams typically experience stronger college outcomes than otherwise comparable non-AP peers, the data in this year’s report show how educators are enhancing the college readiness of our nation’s students by preparing them to take AP classes and succeed on AP Exams.

“Over the last decade we’ve seen a remarkable increase in the number of high school graduates participating and succeeding in AP,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “The 7th Annual AP Report to the Nation highlights the successes educators have achieved in helping students from a wide variety of backgrounds gain access to, and be successful in, college-level AP course work. AP can level the playing field for underserved students, give them the confidence needed to succeed in college, and raise standards and performance in key subjects like science and math. We are excited that more parents, students, educators and policymakers are recognizing these possibilities.”

  • Nearly 17 percent of public high school students from the class of 2010 completed high school with at least one successful AP experience.
  • Though still underrepresented in AP classrooms, more minority students experienced success in AP than ever before.
  • More low-income students participated and succeeded in AP than in previous years.
  • More students are succeeding on AP science and math exams today than took these exams 10 years ago.
  • The top 10 states with the greatest proportion of their seniors from the class of 2010 having at least one successful AP experience were: Maryland (26.4 percent), New York (24.6 percent), Virginia (23.7 percent), Connecticut (23.2 percent), Massachusetts (23.1 percent), California (22.3 percent), Florida (22.3 percent), Vermont (21.8 percent), Colorado (21.4 percent) and Utah (19.2 percent).
  • The states with the greatest five-year increases in the percentage of seniors scoring 3 or higher on an AP Exam were: Vermont, Florida, Maryland, Maine, Minnesota, Colorado, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Washington.

Congrats to Southwest DeKalb.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

77 comments Add your comment

Double Zero Eight

February 9th, 2011
11:21 am

Are there other schools in Georgia that eartned the distinction?

Double Zero Eight

February 9th, 2011
11:22 am

Spelled “earned” incorrectly on previous post.

Maureen Downey

February 9th, 2011
11:28 am

@Double, Only school in Georgia. I added that to post to make clear.
Maureen

Really amazed

February 9th, 2011
11:29 am

Not true! Many GA private schools have earned the distinction.

David Sims

February 9th, 2011
11:34 am

Why do blacks and Hispanics need to compete in their own little contest? Their school received a 5 out of 10 rating on GreatSchools. Their 2009 average SAT score was 1341 (out of 2400). For an all-White/Asian school, that level of performance would be considered lousy. SW DeKalb is 99% black. For a school having only black students, the same level of performance is considered quite good. Oh yes, give them national honors! Praise them! For doing very well in school, for blacks.

Really amazed

February 9th, 2011
11:35 am

Correction, not for Africian Americans but as a whole! Many private schools earn AP college board distinction for students earning high exam grades.

Dunwoody Mom

February 9th, 2011
11:43 am

Congratulations to SWD!!!

Really amazed

February 9th, 2011
11:46 am

@David Sims, it’s said, but you are correct!!!

B. Killebrew

February 9th, 2011
11:57 am

Congratulations to Southwest DeKalb High School!

Top School

February 9th, 2011
11:58 am

Yes it is all about the RACE for the TOP. I just wonder if those superior teachers at Jackson Elementary that stand in front of the overhead reviewing test answers during the testing are going to turn themselves in to the GBI?

Top School

February 9th, 2011
11:59 am

So, what school will Mrs. Obama show up at today?

chillywilly

February 9th, 2011
12:39 pm

Congratulations SWD!!!!!!! This school has always turned out some very good students and athletes. It’s probably the only high school in the country that had two athletes on the 2000, 2004, & 2008 Olympic Team. Many of SWD graduates go on to very good colleges where they study Law, Medicine, Engineering, etc. What an honor!

Top School

February 9th, 2011
12:54 pm

And the struggle makes them all the better for it!
Those students from the TOP SCHOOLS don’t know how to struggle.

Congratulations! SWD!

David Sims

February 9th, 2011
12:54 pm

Top School. Jackson Elementary was one of the few Atlanta elementary schools that is NOT suspected of cheating. All the evidence I’ve seen says that they got their high test scores honestly. Besides Jackson, there are four other Atlanta elementary schools that seem to be genuinely excellent: Lin, Morningside, Brandon, and Smith. And what they have in common, other than high test scores and being absent from the state’s “severe” list for suspected CRCT cheating, is, well… demographics.

WAR

February 9th, 2011
12:58 pm

I recall a certain someone stating that a certain school was somehow “ghetto” and the students were saying that it wasn’t “ghetto”. Looks like the students were right.

Maureen… I wanted to send a response letter to his “raze dekalb’s ghetto” but never heard how I could do it.

chillywilly

February 9th, 2011
1:13 pm

@David Sims – Some schools are better than others at cheating and covering it up. For example, I don’t have to see that you don’t bathe if you smell funky. Don’t you agree?

No Teacher Left Behind

February 9th, 2011
1:27 pm

Like I said before–cheating is rampant in predominately White and high schieving schools. The pressure is greater for students to succeed and get the grade, whichever way they can!

Congratulations to SWD High Schoo!

What if

February 9th, 2011
1:42 pm

The research is starkly clear – as soon as any kind of stakes are attached to test scores (like AP or SAT) or PASS RATES (ALL Georgia tests, NEVER scores, may the AJC one day learn the difference), they will become corrupted. THAT means that all the “value-added” racket evaluating teachers will be totally meaningless – above and beyond the research that shows the method to be horribly inaccurate (almost half of teachers rated high one year in a study ‘fell’ the next year, and a quarter of those in the bottom were close to the top). BUT we press on. Teachers will be randomly rewarded for “doing well” – like rats pressing food levers in your psychology lab, should drive ‘em absolutely nuts (and the best ones out of the profession).
I know I know – not much to do with AP. It is possible (but DIFFICULT) to fiddle with AP testing (and REALLY hard for SAT ) and while it’s tempting to suspect everyone all the time, remember that the VAST majority of teachers are honest, hardworking, caring, responsible and ethical.

RJ

February 9th, 2011
1:46 pm

@David Sims, my son’s former elementary school was not on the list in Fulton County and is a Distinguised School. The school is Randolph and the students are black.

This isn’t about race but socio-economics. Any school that has educated parents will have students that excel.

Congrats to this school of their achievement. No matter what you do, there will always be someone offering up negativity.

Ernest

February 9th, 2011
1:53 pm

Congratulations SWD!!!

Dr. John Trotter

February 9th, 2011
2:04 pm

Congratulations to SWD (”Swadie,” as we use to call it)! My first teaching tour was on Kelley Chapel Road at Southwest DeKalb. I look back on the early days with fond memories. Wesley Chapel Road was my old stomping grounds, and I still cheer for the Panthers…athletically and academically! I tip my hat to Dr. Thomas’s daughter (you will always be “Dr. Thomas’s daughter”), to all the teachers, staff, and students, and especially to the retiring legend himself, Buck Godfrey.

chillywilly

February 9th, 2011
2:21 pm

Speaking of Dr. Thomas, APS could use him right now. His daughter is doing a great job at SWD.

GT grad teacher

February 9th, 2011
2:41 pm

Since 1997, I have taught AP Calc and AP (calculus based) Physics at SWD. My AP calc class has been ranked number one by college board several times. This year, I have 65 students in AP calc. These kids will really work for a teacher who cares and knows their stuff. MY former SWD students have grtaduated from GT UGA DUKE Harvard MIT and are now doctors, dentists, engineers, teachers. Great kids! (even if I did have to chew a few out today for playing in class but hey they are still just kids;-)
Also, our AP history class has the number one pass rate in the nation on the AP exam every year.
and so our AP English teacher!
Eric Ritenour
AP calc/AP Physics teacher SWD

GT grad teacher

February 9th, 2011
2:42 pm

oops “graduated”

another comment

February 9th, 2011
2:49 pm

How many times have the students retaken the same AP exam to score above a 3. I have been told that the private high schools let the students retake the AP exams year after year until they score above a 3. The private schools need to brag their students score 3,4,5’s they only do that by retake them and having the parents hire private tutors if they did not get that first go round. One of the parents told me Sunday she could hook me up with the tutor for the AP exams and the SAT.

Suckers

February 9th, 2011
3:03 pm

This is equivalent to winning the gold medal in the Special Olympics.

Ernest

February 9th, 2011
3:26 pm

Mr. Rit, thanks for your post! As you mentioned, there have been MANY successful students that have matriculated throught SWD over the years. I’m glad my children had a chance to go through your classes as I know they are better prepared to succeed in college because of that experience. I can’t say enough good things about the great teachers at this school. Dr. Thomas’s daughter (to borrow from above) has done a great job at the school as its instructional leader.

Keep having high expectations of your students! They can continue to meet them if you believe they can.

chillywilly

February 9th, 2011
3:27 pm

@GT grad teacher – It may also be worth mentioning that many of SWD former students have also graduated from Howard, Morehouse, Spelman, FAMU, Hampton, & North Carolina A&T and are now lawyers, engineers, principals, teachers, etc.

Principal Skinner

February 9th, 2011
4:07 pm

“Southwest DeKalb High School is one of just 14 schools recognized by the College Board today for leading the nation in helping African American and/or Latino students to succeed on Advanced Placement exams.”

Many, many erasers gave their all to make it possible.

David Sims

February 9th, 2011
4:12 pm

@chillywilly – I agree. Where there’s a smell, there’s something causing it. But what is it we “smell”? We smell 71 elementary and middle schools in Georgia who have been put on the state’s severe-list for suspected CRCT cheating. Of those 71, sixty-eight are schools with a black student majority, above 90% in most cases. Two further schools on the list are majority Hispanic. Only one (Carroll County High) is majority white, and that school just barely made the list. In Atlanta, ALL of the schools on the severe-list are majority black schools. Of the five elementary schools in Atlanta having white student majorities, none is suspected of cheating on the 2009 CRCT.

Now, does that smell like there must be a great many clever, tricky white teachers and principals who are too smart to get caught? Or does it smell like a bunch of black teachers and principles might actually be guilty, as the state seems to think they are?

You’re free to whiff midden heaps and proclaim them roses, if you wish. But it won’t be convincing.

@GT Grad Teacher. You teach one of my favorite subjects. I solved the plunge orbit time-to-fall problem in school. I remember that the integral was tough for me to solve, at the time.

dr/dt = sqrt[GM(2/r − 1/a)]
Constants: G,M,a.
Find t(r).

You might give that problem to your AP physics students at SW DeKalb. The result is very useful, since it’s the classical exact solution for time-to-fall in an inverse-square gravitational field, to which t=sqrt(2h/g) is an approximation. I’ve never been able to discover the percentage of students in a relatively advanced, mostly black, class who could solve it without help.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by ODE GAE NEA and Cynthia Brussellman, Maureen Downey. Maureen Downey said: SW DeKalb High earns national honor for AP scores http://bit.ly/ffdB3o [...]

HS Public Teacher

February 9th, 2011
4:30 pm

@Maureen –

It is my understanding that this “award” is for the number of African-American students that took the AP class/test. It is not for their scores.

No where in what you ‘cut and paste’ does it say anything about the AP test results for SW DeKalb High School.

Can you please find out the facts and clarify?

Thanks.

HS Public Teacher

February 9th, 2011
4:32 pm

@Maureen -

Every one of the ’statistics’ that you mention here are generic statistic from the college board. What are the specific numbers for SW DeKalb?

What exactly is this award that they got? They got this award for ……?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Augusta

February 9th, 2011
4:37 pm

CONGRATULATIONS to the SWDHS students who succeeded on their AP exams and to the teachers who helped them do so!

Maureen Downey

February 9th, 2011
4:40 pm

@HS Teacher, That is from a statement released to the media about the 14 top schools. Here are the schools being honored:
California

Eagle Rock High School (Los Angeles)

Florida

Barbara Goleman Senior High School (Miami)

Coral Reef Senior High School (Miami)

Cypress Bay High School (Weston)

Design and Architecture Senior High (Miami)

Miami Killian Senior High School (Miami)

Georgia

Southwest DeKalb High School (Decatur)

Illinois

Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School (Flossmoor)

Maryland

Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Greenbelt)

Paint Branch High School (Burtonsville)

Texas

Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions (Houston)

Science Academy of South Texas (Mercedes)

United High School (Laredo)

Valley View High School (Pharr)
Maureen

chillywilly

February 9th, 2011
4:49 pm

@HS Public Teacher – Does this good news about SWD upset you? SWD is on a roll and doing it the right way. Way to go SWD!!

Oh yes, I'm the great pretender......

February 9th, 2011
5:06 pm

@Maureen Downey

February 9th, 2011
4:40 pm
@HS Teacher, That is from a statement released to the media about the 14 top schools. Here are the schools being honored:
Georgia

Southwest DeKalb High School (Decatur)

Here we go again……SWD (Southwest DeKalb being the “Key” words) High School is NOT in Decatur

I know, you’re probably gonna say that’s not your doing, but everybody doesn’t know SWD is NOT in Decatur

Former Student of GT grad teacher + Actuarial Candidate

February 9th, 2011
5:07 pm

Mr. Rit – We (former Southwest DeKalb students) love you! Despite what any of the comments say, you are an EXCELLENT teacher. I WISH THIS ARTICLE MENTIONED YOUR NAME.:( The main point is that YOU have taught many students of different races (including African-American and Caucasian) and different backgrounds Calculus and Physics and we are very appreciative!! THANK YOU for all of your hard work! Oh and keep riding :) – JA, proud former student of Eric Ritenour, 1st Try AP Calculus Exam Passer, SWD Alumni, GSU Alumni, Actuarial Candidate – oh yeah and for all “racially-obsessed” readers: I’m a proud African American.

Jordan Kohanim

February 9th, 2011
5:09 pm

@What if— true true true!!!

Ernest

February 9th, 2011
5:11 pm

@HS Public Teacher, take a look at page 19 of the report. You can see the report at:

http://apreport.collegeboard.org/sites/default/files/downloads/pdfs/AP_RTN_2011.pdf

Historically and over the past 5 years, SWD has had the highest number of African American students in the nation to make 3 or higher on the US History AP exams. I noticed they now have a recognition for macroeconomics however not sure what it is for.

Jordan Kohanim

February 9th, 2011
5:11 pm

Former Student— =) That is very nice of you. I hope you go back and visit Mr. Rit. It is what teachers live for, that is to know all our hard work meant something to you later down the line.

David Sims

February 9th, 2011
5:13 pm

@HS Public Teacher. Nice catch! I’d missed the ambiguity.

@chillywilly. HS Public Teacher appears to think that the language in the article implies, perhaps unintentionally, that (black) students at Southwest DeKalb High School had exceptionally high scores in their AP classes, whereas, HS Public Teacher believes, the school is being honored only for *how many* students took such courses and merely passed them, not necessarily with top grades. But HS Public Teacher wasn’t quite sure of her belief, so she asked Maureen to check the fact of the matter and reveal the truth. What Maureen did, however, was recite a list of the “top” 14 schools nationwide that were “honored.” We still have not heard the detail that answers the questions “Top in what respect?” and “Honored for what precisely?”

chillywilly

February 9th, 2011
6:03 pm

@David Sims – Aren’t you late for a cross burning?

David Sims

February 9th, 2011
6:37 pm

@chillywilly. Burning crosses isn’t my thing. The Klan doesn’t accept atheists.

HS Public Teacher

February 9th, 2011
6:51 pm

Why the hate on me? All I am asking for is what the school is being honored for! Why is that bad?????

@Maureen — I would really like to know!

Maureen Downey

February 9th, 2011
7:40 pm

@HS Public, I am sorry I wasn’t clearer. Southwest DeKalb has led in this area for a while. In 2006, more African-American students at Southwest DeKalb High School succeeded in Advanced Placement U.S. history than at any other school in the country. The College Board defines success as scoring at least 3 out of 5 on the AP exam. This time, the honor is for performance in Macroeconomics

Here is a longer story explaining the award when Southwest DeKalb first won the College Board award in 2005.

Southwest DeKalb High School had more African-Americans succeeding in Advanced Placement U.S. History last year than any other school in the country, according to a national report released Tuesday.

The Walker School, a private school in Marietta, had the greatest proportion of its student body, among small schools nationwide, excel on the AP German exam.

And Georgia — so used to being at or near the bottom — ranked 18th in the nation in the report’s analysis of students doing well in at least one of the rigorous courses.

Statewide, 12 percent of public school students scored three out of five or higher on an Advanced Placement exam in 2004, compared with 10 percent in 2000. The national average was 13 percent.

The report was released by the powerful College Board, which oversees the SAT as well as the Advanced Placement program. Advanced Placement courses — ranging in content from literature to calculus — expose bright students to a challenging curriculum.

The report also highlighted how white students outnumber and outscore their African-American peers in AP participation. In Georgia, 33 percent of high school students are African-American, but they make up only 19 percent of the pool taking AP exams.

Crawford Lewis, superintendent of the DeKalb County school district, said he is “overjoyed” with Southwest DeKalb’s national recognition. The school has a magnet program for high achievers.

He acknowledged that the district has work to do in making a range of AP courses available in all schools and pushing kids to take them.

“Oftentimes, we don’t challenge our students in a way that would encourage students to take AP courses, ” he said.

Ernest

February 9th, 2011
7:44 pm

Thanks for providing more information about the accomplishment of the AP students at SWD, Maureen!

Dekalb Teacher

February 9th, 2011
7:58 pm

@ War

This is a great accomplishment for the AP students at SWD; nevertheless, there are at least 1350 SWD students not taking AP classes (that is, if the 15 AP classes offered have 30 different students in each clas).

I work in Dekalb, and I’ve taught AP. You’d be hard-pressed to find an AP teacher using the strategies promoted by Dekalb County. In fact, at my school we argued that the autonomy offered by college board protected our students from any of the cumbersome, ineffective strategies that impede their learning.

Talk to public school teachers in Dekalb. Ask them if the general level classes aren’t just wharehousing students. Also, ask them if they have to deal with any of the behavior issues that many of the other classes are plagued with. If there experience is anything like mine, they’ll tell you they don’t and that there are two or three different schools in each building.

According to the study, research indicates that students taking AP and not scoring 3 still benefit. Sadly, though, most of the college-prep students (which is pretty much 96% of Dekalb’s students) aren’t even taking AP classes because they are struggling to read and write effectively.

Bottom-line: There are pockets of success in Dekalb, but overall DCSS is failing its students and the community. Just look at the published data on Dekalb’s website. In 2005, 79.4% of Dekalb’s graduates earned college-prep diplomas but less than half-only 38.2% were enrolled in college. Any way you spin it, we’re failing more than half our students. Also, why hasn’t Dekalb published more recent figures?

Proud SWD Graduate

February 9th, 2011
8:06 pm

I am so happy to hear something positive about my alma mater! “Dr. Norman Thomas’s daughter” (Angela Thomas-Bethea is her actual name) is working so hard to raise academic and behavioral expectations at SWD, which is also her alma mater. She has only been back as principal for about year and a half and so much has changed for the better. She is committed to showing the world that SWD is a great school that “develops the whole child” athletically, musically and academically. The community has changed significantly, but there are some committed teachers there who work hard to meet the children where they are. That last article that was written by that SWD teacher was not an accurate assessment of SWD and many SWD teachers do not feel that way as evidenced by the success of these students. KUDOS to the SWD AP students, Mrs. Bethea, Mr. Maple, Mrs. Patricia Weeks, Dr. Langston, Mr. Bailey, Mr. Ritenour, Ms. K. Parrish, Mr. Tanks, Dr. Cozens and all of the other teachers who have served as AP teachers at Southwest and had the best interest of the students in mind! Keep on believing in our children and keep this SWD legacy going! It’s a great thing!

HS Public Teacher

February 9th, 2011
8:19 pm

Okay. Thanks for the clarification.

To be clear, the SW DeKalb HS award is for having more African-Americans in AP US History score 3 or higher on the AP exam last year.

Is this compared to African-Americans in other schools across the Country?