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South Georgia schools get a nod from state superintendent

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February 19, 2008

Cairo-- Thomasville, Westover, and Cairo High Schools were the only southwest Georgia schools named as Advanced Placement, or AP, Access and Support Schools.  The schools made the list based on their success with minority students in Advanced Placement courses.

Cairo High School Principal Tim Helms says when questioned at a conference several years ago, he realized his school was lacking in the Advanced Placement field. 

"Four years ago I said we have no AP classes. And really that was what I came back with and started studying and really started wondering, were we providing rigor for our college bound students," he explains.

Helms got to work with teachers like 11th grade Literature teacher Betty Elkins and in just four years the school has made significant improvements.  "The kids really enjoy it, and are excited about the classes. And we are too," Elkins says. 

Helms says of their AP classes, "Now we have seven and we're looking to possibly add two more this coming year." 

This month the school received statewide recognition for their efforts.  "We were one of about 40 schools in the state where 30% of students in the classes were African-American, or minorities, and 30% of those students scored a 3, 4, or 5 on the exam," says Helms. 

Students who receive a passing score of 3 or better on the AP exam in May, get college credit. "Even if they don't get a 3, 4, or 5 on the test, they've really learned a lot from the course and they've benefited from that higher level of thinking and the critical thinking and analysis that's involved," says Elkins. 

Helms adds, "Especially when colleges look at transcripts and they see AP courses, that really signals that this child is ready for post-secondary education."  Teachers here say they're excited about the number of students taking AP classes, but hope they'll recruit even more in the years to come.

Georgia is a national leader in minority participation in AP programs. The number of Georgia public school students taking AP classes has nearly doubled in the last year to over 43 thousand in 2007.

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