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Local school districts focus on advanced testing
Pass rate goes up for International Baccalaureate Diploma Program
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Advanced Testing Scores

Hall County

2015 International Baccalaureate pass rate: 61 percent

2014 International Baccalaureate pass rate: 56 percent


2015 Advanced Placement pass rate: 48 percent

2014 Advanced Placement pass rate: 48 percent

National Average

2014 International Baccalaureate pass rate: 79 percent

2014 Advanced Placement pass rate: 68.5 percent

Some students might be getting comfortable in the midst of summer, but many in the area just received scores from some of the biggest tests they take in high school.

Advanced testing scores are trickling in for the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and Advanced Placement exams, and Hall County and Gainesville City Schools are receiving feedback about the performance of their best students.

The IB program allows high-achieving juniors and seniors to earn a diploma that is recognized worldwide “as the benchmark of high achievement in a high school curriculum.” Students participate in six classes and must complete a list of requirements to earn the diploma.

Eloise Barron, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning in Hall County Schools, said of 79 IB students, 48 received an IB Diploma.

“That’s a 61 percent pass rate, and it’s also 13 more diplomas than last year,” Barron said.

According to Laurie Ecke, assistant director of advanced programs, the 2014 IB pass rate in Hall County was 56 percent, and the district is pleased with the improvement.

“Although earning the IB Diploma is a huge accomplishment, the real value of pursuing the IB diploma lies in the two-year rigorous experience that challenges students to achieve at the college level in six subject areas, while also completing a 4,000-word independently researched essay and 150 hours of ‘creativity, action and service,’” Ecke said. “The students who are full diploma candidates, but who do not earn the diploma, do earn many passing scores on IB exams which can translate into college credits.”

Some Hall County students also take AP exams, but the district does not have that report in full yet.

AP courses are college-level courses offered by specifically trained high school teachers in the regular high school setting. Passing scores can earn students college credit.

In Gainesville City Schools, IB courses are not offered, but AP exam scores are in and the district performed about the same as last year.

The Gainesville High School overall AP pass rate for 2015 is 48 percent, and the 2014 pass rate was the same, according to Sarah Bell, chief academic officer.

“Although we always strive to increase our AP scores, we are pleased that our success rate is comparable to that of the past few years,” Bell said.

Bell said the district does not have full reports yet, but it is happy with student achievement in two particular subjects.

“We are particularly pleased with our student achievement in AP Calculus and AP European History, which had pass rates of 78 percent and 82 percent, respectively,” Bell said. “We hope to capitalize on the success experienced in these courses to determine how we might increase student achievement in other subject areas.”

For a school district, offering such advanced courses is often about more than a pass rate at the end of the year.

In Hall County, IB scores can often reflect a school’s strengths and weaknesses. IB courses are offered at Johnson High School, West Hall High School and North Hall High School. The pass rates in the foreign language courses were nearly 100 percent at all three schools, but pass rates were considerably lower in IB science and mathematics courses.

“Those are the areas we will need to work harder this year to get those folks where they need to be to pass the exams,” Barron said.

While Hall County waits for AP exam scores to come from its schools, it is planning to pilot AP Coordinators at Chestatee High School and at Flowery Branch High School to help improve participation and achievement in AP.

“We’ve talked about for years that we’ve diluted our AP pool because we have so many students in our International Baccalaureate Diploma Program,” said Hall Superintendent Will Schofield.

Bell said Gainesville will use the data from 2015 and years prior to determine how the district might increase student achievement.

“We are committed to equity of access in our Advanced Placement courses, in an effort to ensure college and career readiness for all students,” Bell said.

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