Lincoln-Way's AP Numbers Skyrocket
Monday, May 2, 2016

With AP testing beginning today, Lincoln-Way teachers and students are wrapping-up their ongoing preparations--preparations that total hundreds of class periods and thousands of hours. Teachers aren't only using class-time to prep, either; many have volunteered before and/or after school to help students study for the exams. In AP Psychology alone, District 210 teachers donated 238 non-school hours toward student prep sessions.

Teacher Chris Olson instructs five sections of AP History, totaling 144 students. Olson has been offering AP Test review sessions since the first week in March. These sessions run from 5:45 AM to 7 AM once a week. Many might think the early morning time-frame would deter his students from attending, but his prep classroom is packed to the brim.

Olson says, "As I teach sophomores undergoing their first AP Test experience, I realize how valuable these sessions are to recap the major themes and content areas from the year, as well as to go over test taking strategies and expose the students to as many practice questions (multiple choice, DBQ, short answer and long essays) as possible. Providing these review sessions very much triggers great discussion opportunities, and helps the students see the whole process of the AP exam."

AP testing for all Illinois schools will take place beginning today, Monday, May 2nd, and will continue through Friday, May 13th. These tests allow students to earn college credit by scoring a 3, 4, or 5--saving thousands of dollars on tuition in each year.

The national organization that creates the AP testing system, the College Board, sets the schedule and fees for all testing, allowing districts no jurisdiction over costs, or when the tests will occur. While the pressure of testing during a busy spring season are high, Olson helps ease the students' tensions by prepping early.

Olson continues, "One of the biggest mistakes that first-time AP Test candidates make is that they often wait until very late in April to begin a thorough review, which oftentimes produces a higher stress level and anxiety towards the test. My goal as a 'coach and mentor' is to help them alleviate at least a portion of that stress level, and show them a routine that has worked for thousands of students that I've had before in undertaking the AP experience. In the process of preparation, the students also become much better students for college level work."

Olson isn't the only Lincoln-Way teacher spending countless hours on AP preparations; teachers within the classrooms have spent up to 20 class periods to review for the exams, incorporating review games, study guides and Q&A sessions that cover course material from the entire school year.

Of the possible 38 AP courses offered in Illinois, Lincoln-Way schools offer 34. The list of courses offered include:

In the sciences:
Environmental Science
Physics: (5 assessments)

In Mathematics:
Calculus (two levels)
Computer Science A

In World Language
Chinese Language & Culture
Spanish Language & Culture
Spanish Literature
French Language & Culture
German Language & Culture

In Social Science:
Comparative Government & Politics
European History
Human Geography
United States Government & Politics
United States History
World History

In the Humanities:
English Language and Composition
English Literature
Music Theory
Art History
Art Studio (3 levels)

District 210 has seen a drastic increase over the past year in both AP class enrollment, and the number of students who choose to take the AP tests. From 2015, enrollment in courses grew 48%, and the number of total AP tests taken rose by nearly 1200. The largest leap in exams was seen in AP Psychology, where in 2015, just 135 exams were taken; this year, 474 are scheduled.

In a creative form of preparation for AP Psychology, teachers from all four schools joined together to host the first annual "Psych Bowl" on Sunday, April 24th. The Psych Bowl offered a fun way for students to review for the upcoming AP Psychology exam. Nearly 50 students participated, competing in three classrooms at the Lincoln-Way North campus.

Using a set-up similar to Scholastic Bowl, teams from each school opposed each other, answering questions from any of 16 categories, covering a full year's worth of material.

Three hours, sixteen rounds, and 144 questions later, Lincoln-Way Central came out on top. The team won the Phil Hoffman bobble-head trophy, a priceless and highly-coveted award. (The trophy is an ode to retired Lincoln-Way teacher, Phil Hoffman, who began the AP Psychology program at Lincoln-Way. His legacy at Lincoln-Way lives on through the Psych Bowl, as he is well-known, loved and respected by Lincoln-Way psychology teachers.)

"Teacher encouragement, rigorous prep, online registration, and Skyward Communication are all contributing factors to these increases," says Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum, Tim Reilly. "While the online registration and reminder emails made it easier to sign up for AP tests, the biggest recognition should go to our teachers and students for all their hard work. Teachers have pushed the students both during class, and outside of school hours. They want to ensure that students have the best tools to excel in these exams, and we're looking forward to seeing great results."