MHS AP program posts impressive numbers
By Adam Hocking
MARSHFIELD — A group charged with overseeing Marshfield High School’s (MHS) Advanced Placement program made a presentation to the school board Wednesday night. The group’s data showed Marshfield ranked well ahead of state and national averages and as a leader in the Wisconsin Valley Conference as well.
According to the data presented, MHS has consistently been ahead of Wisconsin and the nation in terms of the percentage of AP students who take and pass at least one AP exam. In 2015, 82 percent of MHS AP students received a score of three — the passing threshold — or higher on at least one exam, opposed to 69 percent statewide and 61 percent nationwide. The overall pass rate for AP exams at MHS was just under 77 percent in 2015.
MHS students also took considerably more exams than other schools in central Wisconsin over the 2014-2015 school year. In fact, D.C. Everest, whose students took 801 exams last year, were Marshfield’s closest competition. MHS students took 1,036 exams in that same time frame. Stevens Point Area Senior High students took 490 exams, Wausau West students 350, and Wisconsin Rapids’ Lincoln High School students took 222 exams.
MHS has been surpassed by D.C. Everest in one area: the percentage of total students taking at least one AP exam. Last year about 38 percent of Everest students and about 36 percent of MHS students took at least one exam. The data presented also showed Marshfield with a higher average ACT score than the aforementioned neighboring schools.
MHS social studies teacher Dan Dargenio, who collected and organized the data, said these numbers show the AP program is not only for the highest academic achievers.
“AP for a long time has been, ‘You’re just polishing diamonds. You’re just teaching the top 1 percent,’” Dargenio said. “This (data) shows that we’re reaching into, you know, one-third of our students are taking AP courses and finding success in those AP courses, so we’re not just teaching the kids with 35s on their ACTS.”
One initiative helping more students afford to take end-of-the-year AP exams is the recently started Blanchard AP Scholarship Fund, which provides money annually for those in need of assistance. Derek Blanchard, who started the fund, is an MHS alum.
MHS students passed a total of 794 AP exams in 2015. By averaging the rate of a four-credit course at UW-Eau Claire, Madison, and Stevens Point — $1,451 — Dargenio estimated that last year alone students saved $1.2 million in college expenses.
Dargenio noted that there is no barrier to entry at MHS for taking AP classes.
“Any kid, if they are up for the challenge, can come in and take our courses,” he said. MHS currently offers 29 AP different courses.
Dargenio said continued recruitment of excellent teachers and professional development for current teachers are some of the keys to continuing the success of the AP program.