Despite inclement weather Saturday morning, almost 700 students proved they valued education by attending the Advanced Placement (AP) Student Conference at Ben Davis High School.
Students from Ben Davis, Speedway, Pike, and Westfield high schools participated in the conference, which started at 8:30 a.m. The conference is offered through the Advanced Placement Training and Incentive Program in Indiana (AP-TIP IN). The AP-TIP IN program is administered by the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives.
Bryan Passwater, representing Notre Dame as the program’s statewide math content director, said the program was started when the National Math and Science Initiative realized the need for more STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education.
“The National Math and Science Initiative about seven years ago ran this program and they had six pilot states across the country — Indiana was not one of them,” Passwater said. “They give these states five years of funding and after five years the states should be finding their own funding sources through private local companies. The program was a huge success. They got more kids in AP classes and they had a ton of more kids passing AP exams. Because of the success that those six states had — the pioneer states — they added Indiana two years ago.”
Passwater said the program in Indiana started out in nine high schools the first year and has added 11 this year, with Ben Davis being one of them.
“We focus on math, science and English,” he said. “It’s a STEM initiative, but we have to have writing skills obviously to do that.”
The conference plays out basically like a typical school day and provides students with an opportunity to get extra education in any of those areas.
“It’s geared specifically toward AP topics that will help get you ready for the AP exam,” Passwater said. “(The students) get a big schedule. There are math, science, English presenters here from all over the country … The kids look at the schedules and they can see different topics. There are six periods, 55 minutes each. They can basically look at where their weaknesses are. We give them the topics the week before.”
Students are fed breakfast and lunch and receive raffle tickets for a chance to win prizes.
The conference is just one of the many ways the program helps ready students for the AP exam.
“Teachers in the program have to do extra tutoring with kids throughout the year,” Passwater said. “We do … a mock exam. They do a full-length practice AP test in the spring that all kids in the program take and we grade them like the AP exam would. They can see before the exam what their strengths and weaknesses are so we can help them the last month.”
The students are also incentivized by getting the chance to earn $100 for every math, science, or English AP exam they pass, or what’s also known as getting a “qualifying score.”
The program also ensures teachers are provided with all the necessary tools.
“We provide a ton of training to teachers,” Passwater said. “We have a week-long training for our AP teachers. We have a week-long training for our pre-AP teachers. We have a two-day conference in the fall … and spring.”
The program’s success is evidenced by the numbers, he said.
After the first year, he said, AP scores increased in all subjects by 66 percent.
“For just math and science, which is the heart of the STEM issue, we improved by 114 percent,” Passwater said. “We more than doubled how many kids passed exams in our (original) nine schools.”
Ben Davis High School Administrator Mark Lile said this is a great opportunity for the school.
“This is our first year in the grant and it’s a three-year long grant,” he said. “This is the second of these events; the first one was hosted at Pike. We’re just incredibly excited to have this many students show up on a Saturday with bad weather. It shows dedication to learning that is really remarkable. We’re proud of our students and we’re excited about how they’ll do on the AP test coming up in the spring.”