BROOKSVILLE — Results on Advanced Placement tests improved slightly this year in the Hernando County School District, with increases in both the passing percentage and the number of students who took the exams.
Hernando County students earned passing scores — a 3 or higher out of 5 — on 46 percent of the exams they took in 2014, up a little more than 1 percentage point from the previous year.
The total number of students taking AP exams, 948, and the total number of tests, 1,482, both hit record highs for the district, said Linda Peirce, the district's manager of assessment and accountability. Last year, 915 students took 1,467 tests.
While the passing rate went up, it still fell short of state, U.S. and global averages.
Across Florida, about 49 percent of students passed their exams; the U.S. and global passing rates are about 59 percent.
District officials were pleased to see the increases, though.
All but one of the high schools saw a bump in their test scores, with Nature Coast Technical High School seeing the greatest increase. The school increased 5 percentage points in its passing rate, to 43.48 percent. Central High School had the next biggest jump — about 4 percentage points — to 39 percent.
Hernando High School was the only school that had a decrease, with its passing rate declining nearly 5 percentage points to 38.5 percent.
Nature Coast principal Toni-Ann Noyes said the school's administration tried to provide more support for AP teachers, meeting with them more often and sending them to outside training. They've also worked to set expectations in feeder courses so that the students are coming in more prepared for the rigors of AP college preparatory classes.
"Our efforts have shown that we're working on it and that we're trying to continue to improve," Noyes said. "The increase shows that they're meeting the needs of the students."
She credited counselors with identifying students who can handle AP course loads and encouraging them to take the challenge.
Springstead High School remained the county's strongest, both in passing percentage and volume. About 57.5 percent of students passed their exams. More than half of the passing scores in the county, 348 tests, came from Springstead.
Former Springstead principal Susan Duval, who retired this summer, said it's about finding teachers with the right interest and ability to connect with students, and providing them with proper training.
"It's like an elective," Duval said. "You've got to draw in the kids, and you have to have those kids believe in you as an instructor and work together as a collaborative team."
Contact Danny Valentine at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.