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Jefferson sees success with expanded class options
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Jefferson may be a small town, but school officials haven’t let size limit the academic possibilities of their students.

Seven years ago, Jefferson High School began offering Advanced Placement courses to its students, and since that time student participation has steadily increased.

"We have a lot of students at JHS who meet expectations. Our goal is to move students from meeting to exceeding academic expectations," said Kevin Smith, JHS principal.

"AP courses are more challenging, and we want to have as many students as we can take advantage of those classes."

AP courses are college-level classes that are taught in high schools by trained staff. At the end of the course, students are given a final exam. Depending on the student’s score, they may be eligible for college credit for that class.

This year, JHS has 107 students taking advantage of the program. Next year that number is expected to go up, as the school adds additional AP courses, bringing the total number of "seated classes" to 12.

A seated class is one in which the students actually sit in a classroom with a teacher. In addition to those classes, there also are many online AP courses available to students.

"Beginning next year, we will have seated AP courses in all of the core classes: math, science, social studies and English. We also have Spanish AP courses available," Smith said.

"We added an online component three years ago. This allows us to diversify our offerings even more, so even if we don’t have a seated course, students can still take the subject online. Some of the classes that students can take online include AP psychology, American government and computer programming."

Jefferson isn’t the only system with AP offerings — both the Hall County and Gainesville City school systems offer AP classes to students.

"We currently have 29 different AP classes," said Cindy Blakely, Hall County Schools director of secondary education.

"And since the 2003-2004 school year, enrollment in those courses has grown from 214 to 1,369."

Gainesville officials also have noticed changes in AP course enrollment.

"We’ve seen a gradual rise in enrollment every year. Right now we have around 180 students who are taking the classes," said J.D. Mutchler, Gainesville High School AP coordinator.

"But the big change for us is that we’re seeing more minority and free- and reduced-lunch students. I think a lot of those changes have to do with the fact that we are encouraging all students to consider all things. We want all students to perform to the maximum of their potential."