DeRIDDER, La. - The Beauregard Parish School Board announced DeRidder High School's Advanced Placement test results during its meeting Aug. 9. This year, 21 DHS students passed their exams with a qualifying score of three or higher - a 75 percent increase from 2017 in which 12 students passed.
Students received $100 stipends for each exam passed. Five students will receive $200, and 11 students will receive $100.
"I was really pleased with these results this year," said Shawn Baggett, DHS assistant principal. "I expect great things as far as our results next year."
Fort Polk Garrison Commander Col. Jarrett A. Thomas II, and his spouse, Telisha, were in attendance for the announcement, as well as Fort Polk Progress President Michael Reese and board members Avon Knowlton and Bryan McReynolds.
The improved AP test results are due, in part, to increased course offerings through a National Math and Science Initiative grant awarded to DHS in 2017 for schools with military-connected students.
Fort Polk Progress helped DHS in acquiring the grant and provided additional funding they received from Louisiana Economic Development to make more AP courses available to its students.
"Fort Polk Progress was very important in achieving this grant and making this possible," said Timothy J. Cooley, Beauregard Parish School Board superintendent.
Reese expressed his appreciation to BPSB and DHS.
"Thank you very much for allowing us to come in and support this program and work in your school district," Reese said.
Through the grant, DHS was able to offer AP Calculus, AP English Language, AP English Literature, AP Environmental Science, AP Biology, AP Physics and AP Computer Science Principles.
Baggett stressed the importance of the expanded AP course offerings, citing a report that indicates that, "Students who master AP classes in high school are three times more likely to graduate from college. [And] African American and Hispanic students who succeed in AP courses are four times for likely to graduate from college."
"I think that says a lot," Baggett said. "Everything we can do to encourage our students to take these courses in the long run will help them."
Additional focuses of the grant were on AP teacher training and student support.
Baggett said DHS AP teachers receive many resources to help them teach the classes. Five teachers also attended a four-day summer workshop - hosted by NMSI in Dallas, Texas.
"When they came back from this training, they had lessons ready for them to take to their classroom," Baggett said. "The teachers came back from training energized and ready to hop into the classroom with the things they learned."
To provide student support, NMSI funded Saturday study sessions for AP courses - three in the fall and three in the spring. Student attendance to these sessions is required.
"I was really proud of them," Baggett said. "They did it."
NMSI provided funding for equipment, supplies and exam costs as well. BPSB received $15,000 in 2017 to spend on equipment, lab supplies, calculators, document cameras and anything that would help the teachers in the instruction of the class. This school year they received $10,000.
The grant covered 50 percent of the $85 fee for the students to take the AP exams. BPSB covered the other half.
"Students did not have to pay any of the cost, so they could earn college credit without it costing them anything," Baggett said.
Reese and Thomas stated the importance this AP progress is to the military families living in the area.
"We seek to support the mission of Fort Polk," Reese said. "One of the ways we do that is to make sure we provide a high quality of life for the soldiers and families stationed at Fort Polk. And the way we do that is primarily focusing on quality education."
He said the AP results are a testament of the positive impact the courses have on students.
"The statistics speak for themselves in terms of the quality outcomes for students exposed to this kind of rigor," Reese said. "We're getting this funding because we have great military families in our communities, but our other students benefit equally."
Thomas reflected on his own experience when addressing the benefits of the grant.
"We have a sophomore in college and a sophomore in high school who is taking AP courses. My oldest son took them when he was in high school as well," Thomas said. "They make a difference. The quality of education that you're able to provide with those AP courses in the long run will get more people to graduate college in the future."
He said the increased AP course offerings will have a big impact on military families moving to Fort Polk.
"For those of us military members and our families, education is one of the most important decisions we have to make when we have to move every two to three years," Thomas said. "You have some school districts where the school quality is not where it needs to be and sometimes that separates families. The military member will go to that location and the family will stay where they currently are, and we don't want that."
Thomas said that by making AP a priority, BPSB is helping to prevent this from happening.
"We want families to be together and to be a part of the community, so we're really thankful that you have taken the opportunity to do this and keep our families together and keep us in the location we need to be," Thomas said.
Baggett said DHS is working hard to increase enrollment in AP courses, and this year there will be weighted grades for AP courses. The school will also implement components in earlier foundational classes to prepare more students for the rigor of AP classes.
She expressed her gratitude to Fort Polk Progress in helping make all the AP progress possible at DHS.
"We would like to extend a very special thank you to Fort Polk Progress. None of this would have happened without them," Baggett said. "It has been a phenomenal thing for DeRidder High School. I'm very pleased with the progress we've made this year."