Avon Grove High School recognized AP STEM Day on Nov. 20 to raise awareness about the importance of rigorous education in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines.

Advanced Placement (AP) STEM courses can both impact students’ success in college and help prepare them for some of today’s most innovative careers. Over the last 10 years, the growth in STEM jobs was three times faster than growth in other job sectors, and this growth is expected to continue.  However, as a nation, far too few college graduates are prepared to fill these jobs, according to the College Board.

Avon Grove High School is one of 325 schools across the country that is participating in the AP STEM Access Program, implemented by the College Board last fall.

Over the next three years, with the support of a $5 million Google Global Impact Award to DonorsChoose.org, the AP STEM Access Program will give an estimated 36,000 students nationwide the opportunity to study college-level STEM coursework in newly created classes.

 Avon Grove was awarded $6,100 in grant money from this program, which provides participating schools with funding for classroom resources, educational materials, and teacher professional development.

The high school’s new AP STEM course is Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. The course covers high-level, calculus-based university physics content, representing the electricity and magnetism portion of a technical major. It is aimed at students preparing to major in engineering and the physical sciences.

The grant enabled Avon Grove teacher Jim Lertola to attend the AP Summer Institute for Physics professional development training in July. In addition, new lab equipment is being purchased that will enhance students’ learning experience.

The equipment includes a current balance, which will be used to teach students about magnetic force on a wire, an oscilloscope, and a variable speed electrostatic generator. New physics simulation software is also being purchased which will enable students to explore subjects they can’t see in the classroom, such as the speed of light and core of the atom. 

As part of the grant initiative, Avon Grove High School is working to identify and encourage underrepresented minority and female students who demonstrate strong academic potential to enroll and explore these areas of study and related careers.

The school used PSAT data for tenth-graders and the AP Potential tool to identify students for participation this year. All Avon Grove tenth- and eleventh-graders took the PSAT in October. That data will be used with the AP Potential tool to try and help identify students who may be eligible to participate in AP courses next year. 

As part of its recognition of AP STEM Day, the district is sharing information about the school’s AP science and math programs with parents, students and community leaders. Lertola, who teaches Avon Grove’s AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism class, discussed the importance of STEM careers with his students. Announcements were also posted outside the classroom and on the course Web page to celebrate AP STEM Day and increase awareness of such careers.

Avon Grove is proud to be able to carry STEM offerings at a high level, as well as to provide students who are often underrepresented in these classrooms the opportunity to participate, said Dr. Margaret Sharp, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction.  

“The College Board is committed to expanding access to opportunity for students and broadening the reach of AP STEM courses is an integral piece of that,” said Trevor Packer, College Board Senior Vice President, AP and College Readiness. “We would like to thank the schools who are participating in this program for their determination to ensuring that students from all backgrounds take rigorous coursework in high school that will prepare them for college and career.”

Students who succeed in AP in high school are more likely to enroll in and graduate college than their peers who haven’t, according to the College Board. Research also shows that students who take AP math and science are more likely than non-AP students to earn degrees in physical science, engineering and life science disciplines.

However, far too many students still lack access to AP, according to the College Board. Last year alone, over 300,000 students who had the potential to succeed in an AP course didn’t take one.

African American, Hispanic, and Native American students with AP Potential are more likely to experience this gap in key subjects such as math. Only three out of 10 black or Hispanic students and two out of 10 Native American students who had the potential to succeed in an AP math class took one, according to the College Board. Compare this with six out of 10 Asian students and four out of 10 Caucasian students. Also, in most AP STEM subjects, female students participate at lower rates than male students.