FHSD Hosted St. Charles County’s First AP Prep Camp in June

Posted on 07/14/2017
Francis Howell Central students collaborating at FHSD AP Prep Camp

It’s part of the mission of the Francis Howell School District (FHSD) – prepare students today for success tomorrow. One of the greatest ways to prepare a student for college is to give them a taste of what a college course is like, and the best way to do that, is to have them take an Advanced Placement (AP) course. To improve the chances for success of the students in those classes, FHSD offered a free prep class this summer to high school students, the first of its kind in St. Charles County.

Francis Howell Central High School Assistant Principal Lucas Lammers saw an opportunity to improve the chances of success in students taking AP courses, and jumped on it. “Three years ago,” Lammers said, “we noticed that our AP program was beginning to plateau after seven consecutive years of growth. We looked at other schools of similar size and with similar demographics, and found that most had many more students taking AP classes and exams. We used student data to identify students who could succeed in AP and recruited them to take AP classes.”

The benefits of taking AP classes are numerous. FHSD Director of Assessment David Brothers said, “We know that students who take AP courses are better prepared for college and the rigorous coursework. We also know that there are percentages of our school population that are definitely capable of that challenging coursework if they had additional supports.”

Because achievement data shows that students who take AP courses are more successful in college, FHSD is encouraging more students to enroll in the rigorous courses. FHSD students haven’t take that opportunity for granted. Lammers said, “We exceeded expectations by increasing enrollment in AP classes by 55 percent in one year.”

Stress Curve IllustrationEvery effort was made to help ensure the success of first time AP students. “The next step was to build a support system for the newly-recruited students,” Lammers said. “The AP Summer Camp was part of that support system.”

Surely, getting students to spend a week of their summer preparing for the school year wasn’t very popular, right? Wrong. The FHSD community has developed a generation of go-getters, and the students that participated had very positive things to say about the camp. “Survey results were uniformly positive,” Lammers said. “They particularly liked interacting with the student mentors, upperclassmen who have successfully completed several AP classes.”

“What it’s doing is making our AP classes available to all students,” Brothers said, “even students who we traditionally might not have thought would be successful in the course. So by giving the additional supports, we think they’ll be successful.”

The camp covered many keystone academic philosophies and activities. “AP Summer Camp teaches students core academic skills that prepare students for college-level classes,” Lammers said. “These skills include independent note-taking, active reading, limiting distractions, study habits, stress management, organization, and the cultivation of a growth mindset. In addition, students get to practice timed-writes and document-based question (DBQ) responses, two activities that are prevalent in many AP classes and exams.”

It’s just the first year this camp has been offered in the county, and both Lammers and Brothers (and the entire FHSD), hope it is a portent of even greater student success to come. “We’re piloting the program this year,” Brothers said, “and hopefully it will be a really good support system for our students this year and in future years.”

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