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Academic program expanding to help Cumberland Co. students

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

A program to help students who are taking Advanced Placement classes is expanding in Cumberland County.

E.E. Smith High School has been a beneficiary of the program for two years and is now entering its third and final year. At a news conference Wednesday, Cumberland County Schools announced Jack Britt High School has won a grant that will implement the program for its teachers and students too.

The program is coordinated by the National Math and Science Initiative (NSMI). The grant for Jack Britt to be in the program for three years is $838,656. E.E. Smith received a similar amount.

Marcus Lingenfelter with the NMSI said in the first year of the program, schools average an 84 percent improvement in passing scores on AP math and science tests. By year three, the improvement is 164 percent he said.
"So it literally transforms a school from they're just humming along doing an average amount of AP, and turns them into an AP powerhouse," Lingenfelter explained.

At schools chosen, the program assists with Math, Science and English AP courses. It relies heavily on extra training for teachers. AP teachers at selected high schools get training from expert teaching trainers, both at the selected school and at seminars across the country. In addition, any teacher in grades 6-12 who may have students that will attend the selected high school will get training too. The initiative says that helps build the pipeline of students who are AP-ready.

The program also provides teachers extra money for classroom tools.

"They give us a stipend to spend on equipment," explained Drew Blazo, an AP Physics and AP Environmental Science teacher at E.E. Smith. "So we get all the equipment you could dream of - everything from lasers to beakers to probes - anything we would need to help these kids get that hands-on experience."

The NSMI program also incorporates special Saturday learning sessions for students in the AP classes covered by the program. Those sessions provide extra classroom time for students, and they are taught by special teachers who visit the selected schools from across the country.

The grants that allowed E.E. Smith and Jack Britt to pay for the program are funded in large part by the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). The DoDEA requires that its grant sponsorships for the NMSI program go to schools with at least 15% of students from military families. Both highs schools meet that requirement.

Lingenfelter said the DoDEA has a particular interest in helping with AP programs because the course follow similar curricula across the country. That consistency helps students from military families that may move more than other students.

"If you're taking AP Calculus in the fall and your parents get transferred, AP Calculus is going to be the same pretty much anywhere you go," Lingenfelter said.

While the schools qualified as a way to help students from military families, any student at the selected schools can take the offered AP courses.

Cumberland County Schools would like to expand the program to all of its schools, but the DoDEA-sponsored grants may not be available for those schools. So Lingenfelter said local or state grants may be necessary to bring the NMSI AP program to more schools in the county.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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