With help from the Westport Education Foundation, Westport High School has applied for a grant from the Massachusetts Math and Science Initiative (MMSI) to add more AP classes in the areas of science, technology, English and math (STEM) to the high school.
That grant, along with money raised in a fund raising campaign will be used to grow the high school’s limit AP offerings.
The effort got a recent lift when R. Michael Sullivan (Board of Selectmen member) and his wife, Martha, offered to match up to $5,000 in donations (as long as the donations are $500 and over) to the Westport Education Foundation.
Massachusetts is now one of six states participating in a program led by the National MMSI to address the drastic decline in math and science education in the United States. The goals of the program are to increase participation through greater enrollment in math, science, and English AP courses, to increase the number of AP courses in these areas offered by high schools, to improve performance on the exams by helping students to achieve qualifying scores of 3, 4, or 5 on the exams, and to increase the chances for students’ success in matriculating to and graduating from college. The program is primarily aimed at underserved students.
Westport High School currently offers six advanced placement courses, three of which are newly established on the basis of teacher training funding provided by the Westport Education Foundation.
They are AP English, AP biology, AP history, and the recently added AP calculus, AP statistics, and AP psychology. No AP classes are presently offered in chemistry or physics, both of which are necessary for top science students interested in competitive colleges.
Last year 73 students took AP courses, and 36 students had qualifying scores of 3 or above. Seventeen students (10 boys and 7 girls) students enrolled in AP calculus, but there were only two qualifying scores resulting from the class and no girls scored a qualifying score. No low-income students in Westport took an AP exam in any subject.
The importance of the MMSI grant, which will bring in the range of $60,000 to 80,000 in funds to Westport High School and Middle School, is the ongoing teacher and student support that the grant provides. Teachers are given up to 72 hours of training per year and students are given 18 hours of extra instruction and support through Saturday study sessions. Additionally, the grant provides funds for four days of pre-AP training for up to five teachers, which includes teachers from the Middle School.
MMSI now has 61 participating high schools in the 2012-2013 school year, and, from 2008-2011, the program resulted in more than 4,000 new enrollments in AP math, science and English courses. The program effected a nearly 100 percent increase in the number of students earning qualifying scores on the AP tests in those areas. Durfee High School in Fall River, for instance, is among the schools that have thrived with support from MMSI. Participation in math, science and English AP courses there has doubled in two years, with 346 students now enrolled. The Fall River school now ranks ninth in the state in performance on the AP English exam and has achieved a 343 percent increase in college eligible scores.
There will be a site visit to Westport High School by MMSI in early December, and a decision will be made on the grant in early January. Because this is a competitive grant and there are several other Massachusetts high school applicants, a show of enthusiasm is essential to our being awarded funding. Interested parents should contact the high school to show their support for this funding.