By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2012 – Military-connected students are getting better access to Advanced Placement courses in public high schools and more support in those classes thanks to the efforts of a national nonprofit organization.
The National Math Science Initiative is expanding a program it started two years ago to add the College Board’s AP courses in high schools with high populations of military-connected students. The NMSI started its Initiative for Military Families in the 2010-11 school year by adding AP courses in math, science and English at two public high schools near Fort Hood, Texas, and two near Fort Campbell, Ky., and giving them extra support, NMSI Vice President Gregg Fleisher recently told American Forces Press Service.
The program was expanded to 52 high schools in 15 states for the school year that began this fall, Fleisher said. They hope to expand to 80 schools by next fall, he said.
“The program is designed to get more schools to offer more courses to more students to see what college is like,” Fleisher said.
The nonprofit College Board has developed college-level curriculum in 34 courses, according to the board. Students who pass, or “qualify,” on an AP final exam receive college credit for having taken the course in high school.
Students who take AP courses are better prepared for college and those who pass an AP exam are three times more likely to complete college, Fleisher said.
Most American high schools participate in the AP program, according to the College Board, but some do not and the number and variety of courses vary from school to school. The NMSI started its Initiative for Military Families at the request of former Secretary of the Army Pete Geren, who raised concerns that military children need more opportunities for AP courses, as well as the consistency that the AP program offers as they move from school to school, Fleisher said.
NMSI’s Initiative for Military Families offers additional support by training teachers, providing equipment and supplies and waving or lowering AP exam fees, Fleisher said.
NMSI began in 2007 with donations from Exxon Mobil, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation to expand math and science education in American schools. The Initiative for Military Families is a public-private partnership that includes the Department of Defense Education Activity, the Office of Naval Research, the Army Education Outreach Program and several charitable groups and major defense contractors.
“We work with the teachers so that they can be the best that they can be,” Fleisher said. “We provide the latest technology, the latest pedagogy and the latest content for teachers to impart on their students.”
About 1.8 million children have a parent in the military and program officials “understand some of the pressures” they endure by having a parent deployed or being new to a school, Fleisher said.
“We try to be sensitive to it, but the best we can do is simply to provide the best quality education for them at these schools,” Fleisher said.
In the past two years, NMSI has doubled the number of students taking and passing AP math, science and English exams in participating schools, Fleisher said. In Hawaii, the number of students taking and passing AP exams has increased 82 percent since NMSI added four schools to the program, he said, and in Oklahoma, 35 percent of the state’s passing scores came from the two high schools where NMSI created programs. And, the program is showing great results in closing the achievement gap among minority students, he said.
“Schools just need a little boost and we’re able to do that for them,” Fleisher said.