A record number of Long Beach Unified School District students signed up for the advanced placement college-level exams this year — 13,252, according to district officials.
That is an 82.4% increase in four years, with a one-year increase of 27%.
“Our district has a big initiative for AP courses,” Woodrow Wilson Classical High School principal Sandy Blazer said.
The initiative includes providing more access to AP courses and exams by covering most of the cost through the state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The state legislature approved the LCFF in 2013, which provides more flexibility on how local schools use some state funds.
More than $2.1 million of LBUSD’s $798 million 2015-2016 operating budget is used for college preparation efforts, including the SAT and AP courses, according to LBUSD spokesman Chris Eftychiou.
Exams cost $92 each, but students pay $5 per exam and can take an unlimited amount. Students deposit $15 and receive a $10 rebate upon exam completion. For example, a student taking five exams pays $25 rather than $460.
Additionally, the district is providing SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) preparation this year with the free online Khan Academy tutorials that are tailored for students’ needs, a LBUSD release said. And free Saturday preparation sessions give students 33 hours of help that would cost up to $1,000 from a private provider.
During the past two weeks, Blazer said about 2,743 ninth through 12th graders took AP exams, along with students throughout the nation. The influx of students caused the school to seek offsite locations for exam taking, Blazer said, and the district to hire an AP coordinator to do that and more.
“Part of their job is to find a location,” Blazer said.
The two-week AP exams this year included three to seven buses taking students offsite twice daily to the Best Western Golden Sails Hotel Golf & Conference Center, Blazer said.
“Golden Sails has been a wonderful partner for us,” Blazer noted.
She also said the school offers 23 AP courses, and plans to add a couple more next year, including AP research. The school offers several sections of each class, she said, and there are three teachers for AP world history alone.
The courses provide opportunity for many students, Blazer said, because those scoring from three to five out of five on the exams are allowed to skip certain college courses.
“It saves families money and prepares kids for college,” Blazer said.
She said the preparation is key.
“What we’ve found is enabling students to take AP courses makes them more inclined to attend college and finish it,” Blazer said.
Emily Thornton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.