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Nicolet's AP test results are puzzles in themselves

Various factors make scores difficult to rank

Jan. 29, 2014

Glendale — Nicolet students posted a promising set of advanced placement test scores in 2013, but the differences between Nicolet and other schools make it tough to rank their performance.

According to a joint presentation from teaching a learning director Brenda Turner and high school principal Greg Kabara, participation in AP classes and tests — Nicolet requires AP class students to take the accompanying test — have steadily increased over the years, with 300 students taking a total of 720 tests in 2013.

That amounts to a nearly 28 percent participation rate among Nicolet students, with about 75 percent of them earning a score of three or better on the tests, which are graded on a one to five scale where a three is considered passing.

"We do a really good job of getting kids to stretch themselves and take AP courses," Turner said. "...Our participation rate is very high."

Placed in a group of comparable high-performing districts like Cedarburg, Mequon-Thiensville, Elmbrook and Whitefish Bay, Nicolet appears to be middling or lower-end when it comes to overall participation rate and the percentage of students hitting the benchmark score of a three.

Results can be skewed

However, cautioned Kabara, differences in the number of students taking AP classes, the types of classes — some schools have high school freshman level AP classes with high pass rates — and AP testing rate all make an apples to apples comparison difficult.

That difficulty can make comparisons and ranking between schools misleading, Turner said. For instance, Nicolet does not offer AP French, but had one student take the test anyway and score a five. It wouldn't be fair to compare Nicolet's average French score to another district that had many students taking the test.

Similarly, relative to other districts Nicolet has a disproportionate number of students taking AP physics tests, making them average lower than other districts who have only one or a few students taking the tests.

"It skews both ways," Turner said.

Limit participation?

Asked whether the district should limit AP participation and testing in an effort to improve average scores, administrators said staff would rather expose students to the tougher material than shoot for better rankings.

"You always want them to have that opportunity to take AP classes," Superintendent Robert Kobylski said. "...I would rather have a student try to stretch themselves and give it a try than be a gatekeeper and have higher scores as a school."

According to 2013 data, male students slightly outperformed female students while minority and economically disadvantaged students tested lower than other student groups.

Kobylski added that the district is working on ways of improving test scores. One initiative, he said, will be to work on standardizing curriculum between Nicolet and its feeder districts — as an example looking at adding French to the feeders, since only one of them currently offers the language.

BY THE NUMBERS

Subject

 

Lit. and Composition

 

English Lang.

 

Macroecon.

 

Microecon.

 

Psychology

 

U.S. History

 

Euro. History

 

Gov. and Politics

 

Nicolet Avg.

 

3.19

4.21

3.17

3.5

5

3.97

3.51

3

North Shore Conference Rank

 

fifth out of six

first out of four

fourth out of four

first out of four

first out of four

second out of six

first out of one

fourth out of four

 

Note: NSC ranks only include schools that had students take the tests. Results and rankings are available for more subject areas than those shown.

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