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September 19, 2019

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CCSD honored for dramatic increase in number of students in advanced classes

Clark High School

Advanced Placement calculus students crowd into a class at Clark High School in this January 2010 file photo.

​In a school district where administrators have long struggled to improve academic performance among a large population of minority students, one program is making such a difference it's been recognized at a national level.

Clark County School District was named the College Board's "Advanced Placement District of the Year" today for increasing the number of its students enrolled in AP classes and improving scores among minority students. Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky announced the distinction at Clark High School this morning.

Clark has the largest number of AP students in the state, according to Principal Jill Pendleton, and the school scores higher than the global average in 16 subjects.

Enrollment in AP classes districtwide has increased by nearly 10 percent in the last three years.

“I’m extremely proud of this important distinction,” Skorkowsky said in a statement. “This award reinforces that our district is headed in the right direction.”

But the district didn’t earn the award simply because it got more students into the program. That’s not uncommon, according to Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP for the College Board.

What surprised AP officials, he said, was that the district managed to increase participation in advanced courses, and average test scores, at the same time.

“When districts expand AP classes to students that haven’t rushed to it, in 95 percent of school districts … the scores go down,” he said. "Your schools have enabled more students to get into these classes and your scores have gone up.”

More than half of CCSD students in AP classes score a three or above on AP exams. A perfect score is five. According to the College Board, the number of students scoring at least a three has improved by three percent each year. Among minority students in the district, that number is nine percent.

"Your AP results are the most abnormal, deviant, strange and bizarre of any large district in the country,” Packer told students and district officials gathered in the Clark gym.

That’s a good thing. Advanced Placement courses offer more rigorous curriculum and give students the opportunity to earn college credit while in high school.

CCSD was among 547 school districts in the United States and Canada who made the AP District Honor Roll. Of those, it was the top among large school districts with 50,000 or more students. Two other school districts were chosen to receive the award for small and medium sized districts.

In total, there are 24,598 students enrolled in AP courses in the district.

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