Grants down, enrollment up in advanced placement classes

Schools still waiting for their shares of $685,000 fund

A grant program that promised to help Fruita Monument and Grand Junction high schools and five other Colorado high schools improve and expand their Advanced Placement programs has yet to procure any of the $685,000 needed to fully fund that program.

As a result, the two School District 51 high schools participating in the program may postpone or prioritize plans to have the grant pay for teacher training, textbooks and monetary incentives for Advanced Placement teachers who attend training. The program also would pay incentives to students for earning passing grades on Advanced Placement exams and attending weekend study sessions.

Grand Junction High Principal Jon Bilbo and Fruita Monument Principal Jody Mimmack said neither school will give up on the program.

“We’re moving on just as though we have all the funding, and I know the foundation is working to find other donors,” Mimmack said. “We think we’ll be able to fully fund it. We’ve just been delayed.”

The Colorado Legacy Schools Program, a project the Colorado Legacy Foundation partnered with the National Math and Science Initiative to create, hoped to receive funding from the federal Race to the Top challenge or Investing in Innovation Fund grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

Neither source came through, so Colorado Legacy Schools Director Samantha Long is hunting for new sources, including industries that would benefit from students who took advanced science and math classes in high school, organizations that helped the program with startup funding, and businesses and organizations in the cities where the seven high schools tagged for the grant are located.

Anyone interested in making a donation can reach Long at 303-736-6477, extension 4.

Fruita Monument enrolled 68 percent more students in Advanced Placement courses this year than last year, and Grand Junction High’s Advanced Placement enrollment increased 41 percent year over year in anticipation of the grant. But they’re not the only schools in on the trend. Advanced placement enrollment is up across District 51, with year-over-year enrollment up 98 percent at Palisade High School and up 14 percent at Central High School.

District 51 Executive Director of High Schools Bill Larsen said the district also has more high school students enrolled concurrently or full-time this year at Mesa State College or Western Colorado Community College. He attributes the Advanced Placement and college-enrollment trends to more students focusing on what will make them successful in post-secondary work. He said counselors and teachers at each school have increasingly encouraged students who may not otherwise have taken advanced courses to give them a try.

Larsen said the district made it a goal to increase Advanced Placement enrollment because “it’s a leading indicator of higher (grade-point averages) and graduation rates” and “links to post-secondary success.”

Dan Bollinger, an assistant principal at Palisade High School, said he noticed more students are taking as well as passing Advanced Placement classes and tests. He attributes at least part of Palisade’s increase in Advanced Placement enrollment to the International Baccalaureate program at the school. While most International Baccalaureate students don’t take Advanced Placement classes in 11th and 12th grade, Bollinger said having one population of students strive to achieve more in International Baccalaureate has inspired other students to reach higher as well.

For students who still aren’t sure Advanced Placement is right for them, Bollinger said counselors encourage students to take more than just what’s required to graduate high school. With 89 percent of District 51 students making it through Advanced Placement classes in 2009-10, a rate five percentage points higher than it was with half as many students enrolled in such classes in 2002-03, it appears many students are up for the challenge.

“We’re grabbing those kids and saying, ‘You’ll thank me when you’re 25,’ ” Bollinger said.


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