AP Exam Results Exceed Nassau County Average
After five years of steady progress, the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District met an impressive milestone that raises the benchmark for student achievement going forward. For the first time, the total number of Oyster Bay High School students scoring a 3 or better on College Board Advanced Placement (AP) exams has surpassed the Nassau County average. Exams are scored on a scale of 1-5. Dr. Lisa Mulhall, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment, announced the news at an October 6th Board of Education meeting during a presentation of the 2019-20 AP exam results.
“This has been a team effort in terms of every teacher and every student taking the courses very seriously,” Dr. Mulhall said. “Families are being very intentional about the courses they select and teachers are being very intentional about the best way to prepare our students.”
Priding itself on encouraging all qualified students to challenge themselves academically, the District offers 17 AP courses in a variety of subject areas, which is considered an impressive amount for a small District. Success has climbed markedly over the past five years, from a total average of 43 percent of students taking AP exams achieving a 3 or higher in 2015 to 76 percent in 2020, exceeding the Nassau County average of 75 percent.
By subject area, of 17 different exams administered, scores on 10 exceeded the County average. Those exams included Biology, Chemistry, Physics 1 and 2, English Language, English Literature, United States History, Studio Art: 2-D Design, Capstone: Seminar and Capstone: Research. Similar in caliber to an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, Capstone Seminar and Research is a two-part continuum that develops students’ skills in research and analysis and puts students on course to earn the AP Capstone Diploma, recognizing those who have successfully completed the most rigorous course of study.
Calling the milestone “incredible,” Board of Education President Ms. Laurie Kowalsky said, “When students see that other students are passing and getting good grades, more are going to want to sign up and that says a lot for what you have done.”
Left, students in Ms. Colleen Annicelli’s AP Physics 1 class measure the acceleration of a golf ball due to gravity and timed it with motion sensors. Center, AP Capstone: Research students in Mr. Stephen Acquaro’s class examine liver cells under a microscope. At right, Mr. Scott Knapp teaches AP Calculus.
During recent discussions with AP students, many acknowledged the benefits of taking a more challenging course of study, citing the ability to earn college credit for successful completion of an AP course and having a stronger academic record when applying to college. But equally beneficial, they said, are the skills they learn in terms of organizational, time-management and critical thinking skills that will serve them well in college and in life.
“When you do well in an AP course, it makes you feel more empowered; it builds confidence and makes you feel good about yourself,” said senior Brianna Braugh.
Juniors Brian Brady and Brian Duke both said they take AP courses because their older siblings did and they saw how they helped them in college. As the oldest child in her family and as a first-generation student in America, Muskan Kumar, was initially unfamiliar with the AP program.
“I talked to my counselors, my friends and figured it out from there,” Muskan said. “Discussing AP options with teachers really helps with deciding what AP classes to take. The classes are great not only because you learn so much but because you learn how you are as a student and develop skills that will help you in college.”
“I think AP classes are similar to honors classes in terms of rigor,” added Senior Alina Kelly. “If you have a good teacher it’s easier to get through the class.”
During the Board meeting, Ms. Kowalsky asked about strategies to further enhance the AP program, possibly bringing back a lab to support AP Calculus students. Sharing in her enthusiasm for achieving this benchmark and building upon it, the Board of Education fully supported Dr. Mulhall’s request for remote review sessions beginning earlier in the school year to prepare students for the exams. The exams are administered over the first two weeks in May.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Laura Seinfeld thanked Dr. Mulhall for her “incredibly hard work” with department supervisors, principals and teachers and thanked families and students for “taking the exams so seriously and working so diligently, especially in a challenging year.”
“This is a great accomplishment especially considering we have open enrollment and allow every child to take an AP class,” added Ms. Jen Scamell, President of the Oyster Bay High School Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA). “Heading off to college with AP scores of 3 or better is an asset to our students. Many colleges accept those scores, and this provides flexibility for our students to add a double major or even graduate early.”