Rio Rancho High School senior Molly Klein will start her higher education career with more than a year’s college credits under her belt, thanks to her participation in Advanced Placement (AP) classes and tests. Cleveland High senior Ethan Sena, who plans to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering recently became the first CHS student to win a Sandia National Labs internship, in part thanks to the seven AP classes he’s already passed.
Advanced Placement courses offer students the opportunity to take rigorous, college-level courses and to take national exams which, if students achieve a high enough score, can earn them college credit.
Last year, about 970 students took almost 1,500 exams and earned 1,200 college credits through the district’s AP programs – a far cry from 14 years ago when 129 students took 279 exams. Statewide, roughly 15,700 exams were taken with a pass rate exceeding 35 percent, adding up to nearly 17,000 potential college credits and tuition cost savings of more than $3.5 million.
Rio Rancho’s high schools have long been known for their strong AP programs, and last year Rio Rancho High and Cleveland High ranked second and third in the state for growth in their AP programs. (Hobbs High School, which receives grant funding to offer AP exams, was #1.) The district now offers anywhere from 18-20 AP courses each year – up from just four when the program began.
LaJuana Coleman, RRPS’s Executive Director for Secondary Curriculum and Instruction, is especially proud that as the district has opened AP classes and tests to large numbers of students, the success rate – students passing the rigorous exams – has held steady at about 50%.
She credits the district’s strong cadre of AP teachers for their success in growing the program, daring to offer new courses, and spending countless hours mentoring both students and other AP teachers across the state and nation. At least 10 of RRPS’s AP teachers are nationally recognized as exam scorers, and some areAP trainers who travel across the country to lead teacher training.
Coleman also praised the hundreds of students who accept the challenge and “bravely” sign up for AP courses they know will test their grit, stamina, and discipline – and will prepare them for success in college. She thanked Governor Susana Martinez and Education Secretary Hanna Skandara – who came to Rio Rancho to announce the AP results – for supporting the AP program and for state financial assistance for students who otherwise might not be able to take AP exams.