As Advanced Placement students across the U.S. get ready for the annual AP exams in May, Oak Park and River Forest High School students have set a high bar by turning in the school’s best-ever results last year.
In spring 2022, Huskies took the greatest number of AP exams in school history: 1,768 exams in 22 different subjects. This record number of students also achieved record results:
- Four AP classes saw their highest enrollment ever: English Literature and Composition, Environmental Science, Statistics, and U.S. Politics and Government. Remarkably, each of these four courses also had their highest average scores ever at, respectively, 3.81, 3.35, 4.09, and 3.99.
- Two additional courses—European History and French—also saw their highest average scores of 4.32 and 3.26.
- Six courses with their highest average scores in the same year is the largest number OPRFHS has seen in recent years.
Overall, students earned a 3 or better on 79% of the tests they took. This was only three percentage points less than the school’s highest percent ever in 2019. Given that AP classes are among the most challenging high school courses available and that students also were dealing with the challenges of their first full year of in-person school since the pandemic, why are they performing so well?
“I would say that the greatest factor is having a school and a larger community that supports reading—and supports challenging students with the stories they read,” AP Lit teacher Bernie Heidkamp says. “And of course, credit goes to our students. Despite it being the last year of a very disrupted high school career, plus the intellectual challenge and the amount of reading and writing, they brought enthusiasm and engagement most every day.”
Dr. Laurie Fiorenza, assistant superintendent for student learning, also points to the work AP teachers have done to align their focus on teaching the skills necessary to do well on exams. “Students had lots of opportunities to practice skills,” she notes. “Deeper learning happens when kids get to practice skills in a variety of ways.”
That was certainly the experience in AP French teacher Rena Mazumdar’s class, where the emphasis last year was on speaking and writing. “These are the two skills that most students find difficult to master,” Ms. Mazumdar says. “To practice, we modeled recorded conversations, did several simulated conversations, and listened to student samples to see what is necessary to get a higher score. For writing, it takes many rough drafts before an essay can be deemed a good piece of writing. We practiced outlines, using advanced grammar and keeping the information flowing by using transitions to connect cohesive thoughts.”
Doing well on AP tests can have significant benefits for students whose chosen college or university gives credit for their results. OPRFHS parent Tnsri Bratakusumo says that her daughter’s AP credits have put her on track to graduate college in three years, representing a huge savings in tuition. Another parent notes that they didn’t save any money, “but our child started college with nine credits due to AP test scores. This will enable her to easily double major within four years.”