WARNER ROBINS -- Larry Wadsworth calls himself a late bloomer. As a high school student in McDonough, the current Warner Robins High School teacher took “only two” Advanced Placement classes.
Now he’s teaching students who are taking four AP classes at once and performing very well on the end-of-year exams. The fourth-year teacher had a 100 percent pass rating last year in his first year teaching an Advanced Placement course.
His students were just a fraction of Houston County students who together last year bested the state, national and global averages on Advanced Placement exams.
AP is an international program of college-level courses and exams for high school students. The courses are developed by a committee of college faculty and AP teachers, and exams are graded on a five-point scale. A score of 5 means a student is extremely well qualified, a 3 is qualified and 1 gets no recommendation.
Many colleges offer course credit to incoming students who have scored well on the exams.
“If you want to go to a good college, many of them require AP,” said Rainy Zhang, a senior in Wadsworth’s class.
The nearly 1,200 Houston County students who took AP exams last year finished with an average score of 2.95, above the 2.86 global average. Students across the state and nation averaged 2.74 and 2.84, respectively.
Wadsworth taught 15 students in AP computer science -- the only such course in the county and one of a handful in the state -- last year. Of those 15, seven took the exam.
That number is indicative of a drop across the board in exam takers in the first year the state did not help students pay for the $87 exams due to budget cuts, said Jan Jacobsen, director of gifted education and AP coordination for Houston County schools.
Throughout the county, the number of exams taken fell about 20 percent between 2010 and 2011, she said, acknowledging fewer students taking exams may have allowed for better numbers.
Also, now that students were responsible for paying for the exams, many decided not to take it if they felt they wouldn’t pass.
Still, the feat was impressive, she said. Of the seven students who took the exam in Wadsworth’s class, six scored a 4 or 5.
Wadsworth said the accomplishment is a testament to the AP program at Warner Robins High and in Houston County as a whole.
And although students now have to pay for the exams, a passing score may save money on college credits.
“For some people, depending on their income, to pay $80 to take a test is ridiculous,” said Austin Meeks, a senior in Wadsworth’s class. But “if you can pass and put it toward college credit, great. If not, you can take (the course in college) and make it much easier.”
Meeks plans to study engineering or computer science in college, so his time in AP computer science will be useful whether or not he passes the May exam.
Meeks and Zhang each will have taken seven AP classes when they graduate next year.
“Taking an AP class, the rigor is so much deeper, and we really do treat it like a college-level class,” Wadsworth said.
Houston County offers 24 AP classes, ranging from calculus and macroeconomics to music theory and studio art.
To contact writer Caryn Grant, call 256-9751.