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Barlows AP program earns accolades

- Gresham-Barlow is one of three districts in the country named to the fourth annual Advanced Placement District Honor Roll


by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Ashley Dupuis, a junior, and Kevin Kim, a senior, see huge benefits in their AP coursework, including more engaging material, college preparation and incoming credits.

By the time they graduate Sam Barlow High School, Advanced Placement students such as Ashley DuPuis and Kevin Kim could potentially knock a year out of their college coursework.

Gresham-Barlow School District was one of three districts in Oregon and 477 across the country and Canada to make it onto the fourth annual Advanced Placement District Honor Roll.

“The school district is extremely proud of the work going on at Sam Barlow High School,” said Superintendent Jim Schlachter. “The school has made changes to make AP classes accessible to more students. Their commitment to creating a rigorous, relevant, and challenging environment for our students is paying off.”

Since 2011, Barlow High has increased its AP participation by 8 percent, while upping the percentage of students earning AP exam scores of three or higher by 10 percent.

At many college and universities, qualifying AP scores of three or higher earn students credits as incoming freshmen.

“AP classes provide challenging, elevated coursework,” DuPuis, a junior, said. “It prepares me for more advanced topics and preparation for tests and quizzes. It’s amazing we’re one of three schools in Oregon to receive this.”

DuPuis has taken four AP classes — U.S. history, chemistry, macroeconomics and language composition — with plans to take four more AP classes next year. She dreams of studying international relations at Princeton, Yale, Duke or Oregon State University.

An aspiring engineer, Kim will have completed nine AP classes by the end of his senior year. He has applied to eight colleges, with his eye on top-

tier schools, and was named an AP Scholar with Distinction.

“We kind of get jokes that we’re the hillbillies out here in the middle of nowhere, but we’re smart hillbillies,” Kim joked. “It’s made me proud of Barlow.”

Andrew Pate and Neal Bridgnell are two AP instructors and leaders at Barlow High, with Pate teaching AP U.S. history and Bridgnell teaching AP chemistry.

The two said they try to keep an open invitation for students to take AP classes and hold information nights so families can learn what’s offered, how tough classes are and talk about students’ areas of interest.

“We get to work with great students who are intellectually curious and have big goals,” Pate said.

Bridgnell said vertical curriculum alignment — or honors classes that prepare students for an AP class within a department — has also contributed to Barlow making the AP honor roll.

Also, for the past five years, it’s been mandatory for a student in a Barlow AP class to take the AP exam.

“Kids know it’s mandatory before enrolling in the class — that ‘I have to take this test,’” Bridgnell said. “It’s a college class in high school. If it was optional, you could opt out.”

Whether or not students pass the test, Bridgnell said it’s well worth the effort, and doesn’t affect their class grade.

“It’s what you get out of the course that has been shown to translate to improvement in college,” he said.

AP tests are $89, but the College Board provides scholarships for students on free or reduced lunches and Pate said other scholarship funds are available for students in need.

Moving forward, Bridgnell and Pate said they want to see Barlow’s program maintain its AP offerings while increasing the diversity of courses. The school has plans to add AP human geography and possibly AP physics in a year or two.

Additionally, the two said Barlow strives to introduce a more diverse group of students to AP classes, encouraging them to go through preparatory classes beforehand.

Through programs such as AVID, the school hopes to identify students capable of AP work who may not have taken the challenge yet.

“It’s a great opportunity to work with the students we work with — to form these relationships and follow-up with how they’re doing,” Bridgnell said. “They come back in college to visit, and getting to know them on that basis is rewarding.”

The honor roll is available at http://professionals.collegeboard.com/k-12/awards/ap-district-honor-roll.



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