Advanced placement course offerings are nothing new to Ardmore High School. But a program aimed at raising student participation and boosting student achievement in the rigorous, college-styled classes is, and it’s made its way to the high school.

This coming school year, Ardmore High School joins a growing number of Oklahoma high schools participating in the National Math and Science Comprehensive AP Program, designed to help dramatically increase college readiness and build strong AP programs focused on science, math and English courses in high schools across the country.

“We just feel very fortunate that Ardmore High School is a full participant. To me, this in one of the most exciting things as a person walking into this school as the new principal,” says AHS principal Jake Falvey. “A lot of people did a lot of work previously, and I am glad that we are able to move forward. As a parent and as an educator, I see this as giving us more opportunity for our children. That is a win for this high school, a win for this district and a win for this community.”

Since being named high school principal in mid-June, Falvey has spent much of his time focused on integrating the program, known by the acronym for the National Math and Science Initiative. The high school has traditionally offered half a dozen AP courses, college-level classes that affords students the opportunity to gain college credit while in a high school environment. Those AP course offerings are in the subjects of calculus, biology, chemistry, environmental science, English language, English literature, European history and United States history.

The NMSI program was launched in 2007 with the intent to impact public schools by bringing the best practices to science and math education. Supported by major American corporations, the program strives to better educate teachers of AP classes, who transform into more effective teachers in the classroom and better prepare students for academic achievement on AP exams and becoming college ready.

NMSI has its reach in 560 schools located in 23 states, and is growing. This fall, Ardmore joins the program along with high schools in Ada, Durant and Pauls Valley. In 2011, Eisenhower High School in Lawton and Carl Albert High School, located in the Oklahoma City metro area, became the first Oklahoma schools to join the program.

Once the program is launched in a high school, administrators and teachers work to increase the number of students enrolled in AP classes, and add more pre-AP classes. As numbers grow in enrollment, so does the number of students passing the AP exams and receiving college credit, according to the non-profit organization.

According to figures from NMSI, Eisenhower and Carl Albert produced a combined 69 percent increase in qualifying scores on AP math, science and English exams during the first year the program was implemented.

Falvey says the increase in participation and rise in qualifying scores at fellow Oklahoma high schools is what has made the program very appealing. His goal is to get students ready for the next level of education, and NMSI is an additional resource for making that happen, he says.

“What NMSI is showing and what is exciting to me is that more kids will be exposed to a higher level of instruction,” says Falvey, who notes the program is for any students willing to take their education to the next level and be prepared to be challenged in the classroom. “The reality is some of the kids might need to be coached. Do we expect every kid to walk in and get a score of a 5 (on the exam)? No. But there is research that a student who participates in an AP course will benefit greatly. A student can get a B in the course and get a score of a 3, 4 or 5, all which are passing for college credit. They will be more college ready, and that is one of the issues.”

In additional to the year-round teacher support services and training, NMSI offers students the opportunity for extra tutoring sessions and Saturday study sessions, prior to the AP exams in the spring.

Going into the school year, which for Ardmore students begins Aug. 20 when they arrive for the first day, the high school principal is on a mission to encourage more students to enroll in AP classes.

Last school year, 89 students participated in AP classes at the high school. Falvey says he is aiming for boosting enrollment to 180 students at the 750-student population school for the 2014-15 school year.

Enrollment for high school students begins Tuesday at noon, running until 6 p.m. Enrollment resumes Wednesday at 9 a.m. and continues through 3 p.m. The same enrollment schedule is in place for students at the district’s five other school sites. Wednesday is enrollment for students new to the district.

Counselors will be on hand to answer student and parent questions about AP courses and the NMSI program. Prior to enrollment, Falvey says he hopes parents and students will have a conversation about signing up for an AP class.

“There are some kids who have a tremendous skill in one subject, and it’s amazing,” Falvey says. “But if they are not in a class that is going to push them, they will stay where they are.

“NMSI can offer additional help beyond the classroom with the benefit being they move forward to the next step of their academic career more prepared.”

In addition to a student being more prepared when entering a college classroom, Falvey points out there is potential financial savings for tuition. A student who passes the AP exams and receives college credit can begin their college career with classes already complete.

NMSI has the blessing of the Oklahoma Department of Education, which has earmarked some funding for the program. Private donations and grant funding contribute to make the program possible at schools across the country.

The state agency also supports and encourages AP courses at public high schools. Curriculum for AP classes is created by the College Board, a non-profit organization that has run the program since 1955 and administers the SAT, a college entrance exam.

Falvey says NMSI is moving “full speed ahead” at the high school with representatives on campus this week to administer teacher training.

“This is going to make a significant difference in the climate and culture of this school,” Falvey says.

To ask questions about AHS enrollment, call the high school at 226-7680. More information on enrollment at all school sites is available on the Ardmore City Schools website.