Pasco County Schools has been named the best Advanced Placement school district among large districts in the nation.
The school district was among 250 districts across the United States and Canada that were named to the annual AP District Honor Roll, according to a school district news release.
From those, three districts were singled out — one large, one medium and one small, based on an analysis of three years of AP data, the release says.
Pasco was honored in the category of large districts, as defined by those with 50,000 students or more.
Pasco Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning shared the news with district staff in a May 29 video posted on YouTube
“The top district, in the nation — this is a big deal,” Browning said. “There are more than 13,000 school districts in the United States, and our school district — our students and our teachers — earned this award.
“This honor is shared by all of you,” the superintendent continued.
Even though AP classes are taken in high school, the success that occurs at high school, builds upon the successes achieved in middle and elementary schools, he said.
“So, when Taija McCullough, at Zephyrhills High School, does well on an AP exam — the staff at Woodland Elementary should be very proud.
“That’s why this is such a big deal. This honor truly is a reflection on what goes on in all our classrooms,” Browning added.
“Over a three-year period, we increased the number of students taking rigorous AP courses. We increased the number of underrepresented and minority students taking AP classes. And, at the same time, we improved our Pass Rate — those scoring a 3 or above,” the superintendent added.
The College Board’s AP courses offer high school students a chance to get a taste of the rigor of college-level work.
The College Board says that research has shown that AP classes help students be better prepared for college, be more likely to enroll in college and be more likely to graduate in four years.
Students must earn a 3 or higher on the AP Exam to earn college credit, which, in turn, can reduce their future college tuition costs.
Sixty percent of all AP students in Pasco scored a 3 or higher on at least one exam in 2019, according to district figures.
“Over the last three years, our students earned the equivalent of $3 million in tuition costs,” Browning said.
Trevor Packer, head of the College Board AP Program, explained the significance of the honor, in a district news release. “This award shows that Pasco County Schools is challenging many students to achieve at the highest levels,” Packer said.
“Pasco is ensuring that a more diverse population of students is earning college credit in a wide variety of AP subjects. Congratulations to all the educators and students whose dedication and hard work garnered this well-deserved recognition.”
Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran also weighed in on the district’s success.
“This is a remarkable accomplishment that shows the nation what can happen when great teachers believe in and push students to handle the most rigorous courses. Students will always exceed our expectations,” Corcoran said, in the district’s release.
“Superintendent Browning and his team are preparing a large and diverse group of students for success, and the entire State of Florida is proud of what Pasco has accomplished,” Corcoran added.
The district also released another video, sharing the perspectives of Phillip Ellis, a teacher at Zephyrhills High, and Zephyrhills High student Taija McCullough.
Ellis teaches AP Chemistry and AP Physics 1.
He’s pleased to see more students taking AP courses and more passing the exams, as well.
“I’m seeing a lot of students who otherwise may not have opted to take the class, go and get out there and try a really tough class. That’s what I’m really most proud of — that we have more students willing to try, and willing to put themselves out there to accomplish things they didn’t know they were capable of,” he said.
Taking AP courses “is challenging, but it is worth it in the end,” McCullough said.
It helps students to build study skills, time management and the ability to balance the demands of studying with other aspects of their lives.
Taking the courses helps build confidence, too, she said.
“You know you’ll do well in college,” McCullough said.
Browning was obviously elated, as he announced the district’s accomplishment.
“We don’t do this to get recognition. We do it because it creates opportunities for our students. It brings out the best in students,” he said.
At the same time, though, the recognition is well-deserved.
“I could not be more proud of what our team has accomplished, and that includes everyone. Our staff came up with an ambitious, but viable plan. Our school board saw the value and potential in the plan. Our principals bought into it. Then, in classrooms across Pasco County, our teachers and students made it happen,” the superintendent said.
Published June 03, 2020