Monday, October 19, 2015

No Quick Fix: When Reading Comprehension Failure Occurs

Alabama now defines "dyslexia" as a learning challenge that is neurological in origina and characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fulent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities.  On October 8, 2015, Alabama joined numerous other states in the country in approving regulations to help students with significant really challenges, often called "dyslexia."
Over the next few months, the Alabama State Department of Education will be giving school districts guidelines about the new regulations.

No single assessment provides a person with a dyslexia diagnosis.  Instead, a series of screeners or assessments point educators and families to information about how a student processes language, both auditorially and visually.  Once information from those assessments is collected and analyzed, then dyslexic readers can be matched with intervention to help them overcome their reading obstacles.

Hoover City Schools, anticipating new state regulations, began training teachers in intervention practices in 2011 when 37 of our current teachers were trained to use the dyslexia-specific interventions called Seeing Stars and Verbalizing and Visualizing.  In the last two years, all Kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers in the district participated in Oral Language Resources training. In Summer 2015, over half of the district's Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2 teachers participated in Ready, Set, Go!  training to add more phonics resources to those classrooms.  More training is scheduled to allow for more teacher participation.  In September, 24 more teachers and literacy coaches were trained to use Seeing Stars (decoding intervention) and Verbalizing and Visualizing (comprehension intervention).  The district now hopes to support all the teachers participating in these trainings.

If you would like to learn more about dyslexia, the district has posted a comprehensive PowerPoint presentation here and a recent research article about dyslexia from Vanderbilt University here.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September Monthly Newsletter

Link to September Newsletter

This month's topics include:

  • The Grading Grind- Will you be a Coach or an Umpire? 
  • What is Erin's Law? 
  • DOK: Depth of Knowledge Rising to Spotlight in HCS 
  • Canvas Updates 
  • Google Classroom Updates 
  • Welcome to the Hoover City Schools Family! (New Teachers) 
  • Are you Interested in Pursuing National Board Certification? 
  • Alabama has a new Course of Study for Science, and Hoover Teachers are Exploring the Standards 

Our website has curriculum resources, contact information, and our Learn-Teach-Inspire ongoing blog:

Monday, September 14, 2015

DOK: Depth of Knowledge Rising to Spotlight in HCS

The ACT Aspire for Grades 3-8 and Grade 10 is now the Alabama State Department of Education required assessment for all Alabama school districts.  It measures students' achievement in  math, reading, English, writing, math, and science.  The Aspire aligns with the Grade 11 and 12 ACT.

ACT has chosen to use Webb's Depth of Knowledge as a framework for developing questions for the assessments.  In 1997, he developed a process and criteria for systematically analyzing the alignment between standards and standardized assessments.  The model includes 4 levels of cognitive expectations or depth of knowledge that allow students to show their learning.  The 4 levels are as follows:
                    1.  Recall and Reproduction
                    2.  Skills and Concepts
                    3.  Short-Term Strategic Thinking
                    4.  Extended Thinking

As schools analyze the results of the spring 2015 ACT Aspire results, it will be helpful to also examine the types of tasks our students were asked to complete.  Most of the ACT Aspire questions for each grade level match the Level 2 and Level 3 DOK question tasks.  Level 4 tasks are typically long range projects extending over hours, days, or weeks.  Since the ACT Aspire subject tests are time limited, Level 4 tasks are not included in the spring tests.

Recall and Reproduction Questions: DOK Level 1
Curricular elements that fall into this category involve basic tasks that require students to recall or reproduce knowledge and skills.  The content at this level involves working with facts, terms, and/or properties of objects.  It may also involve use of simple procedures and/or formulas.  There is little transformation of extended processing of the target knowledge required by the task.  A student answering a Level 1 questions either knows the answer or not.  The answer does not need to be "figured out" or "solved."  DOK Level 1 items on the ACT Aspire make up about 14-24% of the reading section questions and about 5-16% of the math section.

Verbs that descsribe Level 1 tasks include the following: responds, remembers, memorizes, explains, restates, interprets, absorbs, recognizes, describes, translates, and demonstrates.  Level 1 activities may include tasks such as making timleines, developing concept maps to show a process or describes a topic, making a chart, drawing a picture to illustrate an event, process, or story.

Skills and Concepts Questions: DOK Level 2
Curricular elements that fall into this category ask students to compare and differentiate, apply multiple concepts, classify and sort, predict, explain (tell why), provide examples and non-examples, and use context for unknown words.  There is usually only 1 correct answer, but students will need to make multiple-step decisions, make inferences, and may need to collect data.

DOK Level 2 items on the ACT Aspire make up 38-62% of the reading questions and 27-38% of the math questions.

Verbs that describe Level 2 tasks include the following: classify, organize, estimate, make observations, collect and display data, and compare data.

Strategic Thinking Questions: DOK Level 3
Curriculum elements that fall into this category ask students to plan, reasoning, evaluation, analyze, and solve real-world problems.  These tasks may have more than one answer and more than one way to reach an answer.  Students are challenged to provide evidence and reasoning for conclusions drawn and must justify their thinking.  These tasks require understanding of a text, data set, investigation or key source.

DOK Level 3 items on the ACT Aspire make up 24-48% of the reading section and 51-62% of the math section.

An example of a 5th Grade reading question might be: What does the narrator mean when he or she says, "When people had cholera it seemed they remembered nothing but themselves"?  Does Mary believe anyone will come for her?  Another example could be: Read Rudyard Kipling's poem "Cholera Camp."  Compare and contrast how the excerpt form The Secret Garden and the poem describe a cholera outbreak.

An example of an Algebra 1 question could be: Jack, Luka, and Tony took a quiz.  Luka's score was 12 less than Tony's score and three times Jack's scorse.  If Jack's score was 1/9 of Tony's score, what was Tony's score?  Answer choices:  a) 6   b) 12   c) 18   or   d) 24.

This school year, we'll be posting more about Webb's Depth of Knowledge on the LTI site.

The Grading Grind: Will you be a Coach or an Umpire?

Those who have worked with me for any length of time will soon discover that I have a deep passion for fixing problems with grading.  You may think I have things backwards, surely learning is more important than grading, and that is most definitely true, but my focus on grading is intense because I believe that many of our most sacred grading cows are blocking the road to better instruction.

We have known for more than a century that classroom grades on a 100 point grading scale are statistically unreliable (Starch and Elliot, 1912 & 1913), but that scale and its accompanying A to F categories persist to this day due largely to cultural and institutional inertia.  We've also known for more than forty years that teacher expectations influence teacher actions in such a way that expected student behaviors are more likely to occur (Rosenthal and Jacobsen, 1968).  Essentially, expectations for groups of children are established in the first few weeks of school, and teachers will adjust the difficulty of graded assignments thereafter in conscious and unconscious ways to create the distribution of final marks that they expect.

Are there better options?  Good models based on standards-based approaches have arisen and endured real-life trials over the course of the past twenty years (Douglas Reeves, Ken O'Connor, Robert Marzanno, and Thomas Guskey).  The models that have endured typically retain the A-F final mark in deference to its historical persistence, but they replace the 100 point scale with discrete rubrics for the products, progress, and process of learning based on clearly identified standards.  The problem?  Standards-based grading doesn't make much sense until you have firmly established standards-based instruction as a professional norm in your school.  We are on the road there, but we aren't there yet.

So, with progress reports and the first nine-week report cards on the horizon, what should you do?  I offer three simple suggestions that should help you navigate around the sacred grading cows on the road to more effective learning in your classroom.

  1. Be a coach, not an umpire.  Knowing the importance and influence of our own expectations, teachers should adopt the perspective of a coach.  The goal of an umpire is to call balls and strikes, and sometimes teachers use math calculations to the fourth decimal place to assign final grades as if the exercise was purely objective, rational, and essentially beyond their control.  "I didn't give you that grade.  You earned it," is a common retort.  However, the selection of particular assignments that go into a grade and the difficulty of each assignment have a dramatic influence on the final outcome, and we can't pretend that isn't true.  The goal of a coach is to help the player improve, and great teachers see the grading process as a feedback loop that ends when the student has met the standard.  Messing up in practice is okay if the student gets it right on game day, but the coach has to watch the player in practice and give feedback, positive and negative, to help the student improve over time.  
  2. Consider the calculated number a minimum, not a mandate.  Knowing the reliability issues that are an inherent limitation of a 100 point grading scale, teachers should be careful about surrendering their own judgment to a calculated average.  While it would be considered indefensible to assign a final letter grade that is below the range prescribed for a calculated average, it is within a teacher's authority and discretion to award a higher final letter grade than the calculated average would merit on its own.  Do you have evidence that the student actually performed substantially better later in the grading term?  This is especially important when making a pass-fail decision.  If a student has met the standards at the end of the term, even if the performance is not captured in the same document or format that other students used, that student should not fail.  Remember that fair isn't always equal (thank you Rick Wormeli), and as long as you have evidence to support a positive bias, your judgment as a teacher trumps a flawed statistical calculation any day of the week.
  3. Don't award bonus points or extra credit for work that isn't related to learning standards.  Bonus points and extra credit are some of the strategies that teachers often employ when they feel that their grade distribution is not conforming to expectations.  There is nothing wrong with this in general except when the extra points are awarded for things that have nothing to do with the learning goals.  Attending after-school events, bringing a roll of paper towels to class, or wearing a costume on spirit day are all wonderful things, but giving students extra grade credit is fundamentally flawed.  If a student, a group of students, or all of your students need to improve their grade, look at the standards and try to think of alternative ways that they can demonstrate proficiency or the integration of multiple standards in novel ways.   

What is Erin's Law?

In the 2015 regular session, the Alabama legislature passed Erin's Law which is aimed at addressing the sexual abuse of children.  The law requires all public schools to establish and implement a developmentally appropriate instructional program based on the prevention of sexual abuse from pre-K through 12th grade.  The curriculum must address safe and unsafe touching, safe and unsafe secrets, how to get away from an abuser, and reporting.

The law created a state task force that will actually develop guidelines for schools to follow in order to comply with the law.  That task force has just started its work, so until those guidelines are developed and published, schools are not required to do anything.  In the meantime, it is important to remember that all educators are mandatory reporters, so if you suspect a child is being harmed, you must report accordingly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Argument Driven Inquiry--A Focus for Secondary Science

I was invited to the classroom of Ms. Kristen Bundren at Spain Park High School to share in an Argument Driven Inquiry with freshmen students in her pre-AP biology class.

This was her students first ADI lesson.  She gave an outstanding explanation of the goal of the lesson and clarifying what students would be doing to achieve the goal.  She began with a discussion of the critical components of ADI, the question, the claim, the evidence and the justification.

The CONTENT goal was for the students to learn what characteristics define life.  This topic had not been discussed in class and this ADI served as the springboard to discuss that key biological concept.  In other words, ABC, Activity Before Concept.   In addition, the students had the opportunity to learn something about viruses, a biological topic that is often difficult to "fit" easily into a biology curriculum.  This lesson was adapted from one of the lessons in Scientific Argumentation in Biology, 30 Classroom Activities.  Students were given a two-page background on viruses and another table that compared characteristics of viruses to other living and non-living things.

Students worked in groups of four, read and discussed the materials they were given and then were charged to write the four key components on their whiteboard.  Of course, the question was given, the students were to make their own claim, present their evidence, and then state their justification.

Some student groups claimed viruses WERE alive; other students claimed that viruses WERE NOT alive.  Ms. Bundren let the students choose HOW to present their evidence.  Many chose tables, one group chose a Venn diagram.  Finally, students justified their claim by using the evidence they had presented.  They were also proud of their work!

While I was not there to see student groups observe each other's work, Ms. Bundren told me that in an earlier class, different student groups had made conflicting claims and it made the discussion very rich.  Students were ARGUING BASED ON EVIDENCE!

I asked Kristen to share some of her thoughts about the ADI lesson.  She said, "the biggest challenge for this lesson was directing students to focus not on their opinions or prior knowledge, but on the data that was in front of them. Midway through fourth period, one group was erasing their entire board. I asked the group why, and one member said, 'We thought the viruses were living, but we've changed our minds'. When asked why, the students explained that after looking at the data they realized that their evidence did not support their original claim. It was so much fun to see the students work through the scientific process."

Look for more ADI stories!

Monday, August 24, 2015

HCS LTI Facebook Page

Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Teaching and learning comprise the most essential functions of any school. The Curriculum and Instruction department of Hoover City Schools exists to ensure that our schools are spaces of excellence where highly effective teachers and leaders create and cultivate conditions that will inspire students to achieve. We want them to grow in knowledge and wisdom in a rigorous, relevant and engaging learning environment. Our primary goal is that all students will become lifelong learners who are contributing citizens in a rapidly changing world. In today's context, this requires an intense focus on supportive relationships that prepare students to be academically and developmentally ready for both college and career. 

The Curriculum and Instruction department supports teachers and leaders in this work through the preparation and facilitation of a rigorous and vigorous curriculum.  Collaborative training in research-based instructional strategies, progressive support for struggling learners, and monitoring of learning progress are hallmarks of teaching and learning in Hoover City Schools. 

This website serves as a connecting hub for information and resources that support this work. Whether you come to this page as a teacher, leader, parent, or community stakeholder, we hope that you will find something that will help you and yours to learn something new, teach in a more effective way, and inspire children to grow into lifelong learners. 

Ron Dodson, Ph.D.
Assistant Superintendent of Instruction
Hoover City Schools

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

For our New Teachers: The Journey has Begun . . .

EXCELLENT teaching, EVERY day in EVERY class for EVERY student

After almost two full weeks of "scheduled" preparation (even though many of you spent much more time than that!), you finally met your students last week.  Today you are seeing them for the fourth day and, I hope, your school day is beginning to feel a little more routine.

I remember 17 years worth of the first week of school.  Exhausting is too kind of a word for what I felt at the end of each day; not just physical exhaustion but mental exhaustion as well. I didn't have my "teacher voice" back yet and I often had a week of laryngitis after the first full week of teaching.  There was so much "stuff" to do that I found myself not being able to do the important thing--planning for instruction for my students--until late into the afternoon or early evening.  The good news is that my stamina would increase, my organizational skills would adapt to the new schedule and students, and I would get into the "swing" of planning, grading, giving feedback, etc. for yet another year.

It was a joy to get to meet you all during our new teacher orientation days.  I look forward to getting to know you better and to learn alongside you as we all journey together to help our students achieve their potential and more.  I have two "hopes" for you at this stage of your journey in Hoover City Schools.

Hope #1

I hope that you sensed at new teacher orientation that we were welcoming you into our Hoover Family.  Even though we are a large school district, we had fairly small beginnings and we strive to hold onto that family feeling.  Dr. Dodson and our curriculum staff embrace the idea of a large professional learning community, continually growing and learning to meet the diverse needs of our students.  I hope that you know that you are a VALUED MEMBER of our family!

I hope you have found a community to belong at your school.  I hope that you are engaging with a grade level team or discipline department or other community at your school.  I hope that community is providing you with information and support to help you navigate the very difficult first few weeks in a new school.  

I also hope that you feel a part of the larger community, your school.  I hope that your school leadership has provided opportunities during the days prior to the beginning of school for you to meet with the entire faculty so that you get a sense of the culture of your school.  I hope that your principal articulated his/her vision of what s/he hopes you will accomplish together.  I hope that you feel a part of something very important as you work as a team member to help your school achieve its best year ever.

Finally, I hope that you have either been assigned or have found that one "buddy", "mentor", "friend" who can be your 'go to' for any question you might have.  We all have questions we can't ask in a grade level/department meeting or a faculty meeting!  We need someone safe to help us with those issues.  I hope you have that person.  If you don't, please reach out to your school leadership or to Dr. Adams or me and we will help identify that person for you.

Hope #2

I hope that the students that have been in your class for three days now also feel a sense of community.  I hope that every student in each of your classes feels that s/he "belongs".  I hope that each of your students feels that you believe in him/her and that s/he can be successful in your class.  I hope that each of your students knows that s/he has an advocate in you and that you are there to help him/her succeed.  It would be my ultimate hope that if someone asked your students what they knew about you after four days of school, they would say, "my teacher cares about me."

I saw the photo on the top of the blogpost on Facebook.  It was posted by Shades Mountain third grade teacher Deanna Straub and these are the "real" hands of her third grade students this year.  This photo spoke volumes to me.  When I saw the photo, I could just imagine the potential that was attached to these precious hands.  I can't really tell boys from girls, tall from short, extrovert from introvert.  But the photo just shouts we are here to live, learn and grow together.  What a vision of a classroom community!

I had the privilege to be at Bluff Park Elementary School during the primary grades (K - 2) meet the teacher.  It was one of the most moving experiences that I have had in a long time.  I stood in the foyer greeting students and parents as they came in.  They came in smiling, both students and parents.  There were almost as many dads and granddads as there were moms and grandmothers.  Some came in laden with school supplies and materials.  Some did not speak English.  Some came in wheelchairs.  I would ask students who their teacher was going to be, many could tell me, others were too young to remember.

But, the aspect that inspired me the most was that EVERY parent, grand parent, aunt, uncle, guardian and child who came into that building brought HOPE with them.  These people brought their most precious treasures with the HOPE that the Bluff Park staff was going to take good care of them, love them, and teach them well.  The HOPE was palpable in that school foyer. God help us all to not disappoint these families.

While I never experienced that exact kind of "meet the teacher" experience as a high school teacher, I have been a middle and high school mom and know that those parents, grandparents, guardians, also HOPE for us to be exceptional for their child.  Sometimes, they even HOPE we will be the miracle person to reach their child because few have been able to.  Sometimes, they HOPE we will inspire their child to succeed because they haven't tasted success in school in a long time.  Many parents HOPE that we will teach, coach and/or direct their students so they are better able to compete for academic scholarships, athletic scholarships, music & art scholarships, military academy appointments, and college acceptance.   Mostly, they HOPE we will help their young person mature and grow into an adult able to successfully take on the 21st century world.  God help us all to not disappoint these families.

I HOPE that one day you can echo me when you say that coming to work for Hoover City Schools is the best professional decision that you ever made.  We are here to support you along this journey!


Thursday, August 13, 2015

First Day of School- August 13, 2015

There are a lot of tired children (and teachers) tonight, but what a great first day of school in Hoover! I saw so many wonderful things in schools across the district today.  Little ones were learning to walk in line for the first time, middle schoolers were struggling to master new locker combinations, and newly licensed teen drivers were driving themselves into high school parking lots for the first time.  I just love the first day of school!

Thank you teachers for showing up in the hundreds on a volunteer basis over the summer for workshops that will push learning in your classroom that extra degree to 212!  Thank you bus drivers for safely transporting thousands of children to and from school!  Thank you to the maintenance and grounds crews that made our schools comfortable and productive today!  Thank you to our custodians who worked so hard to make the floors shine and all the hallways clean!  Thank you to the resource officers who keep our schools safe!  Thank you to the counselors who soothed broken hearts of children (and mothers)!  Thank you to the office workers and school leaders who were ready to step in and get things back on track when the unexpected occurred!

This was a great day for starting the new school year in Hoover City Schools!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

New Response to Intervention (RTI) Procedures

After several years of working with the new Response to Intervention (RTI) approach to assisting struggling learners, the district undertook efforts this summer to revise our RTI academic procedures.  The goal was to simplify procedures and provide more practical guidance to common problems and questions faced by school Problem-Solving Teams.  One mark of success is evident in the fact that the manual was reduced in size from 59 pages in the previous version to only 15 pages.  Each year, a new RTI Assessment and Resource Guide will be published that will specify the assessments and resources that will be supported by the district for that academic year.  Because assessments and resources often change from one year to the next, this approach should reduce the number of times that the manual itself will have to be updated.  We hope that these resources will be useful to teachers and leaders in planning and delivering progressive intervention strategies to assist our struggling learners. 

Follow this link to download a copy of the new RTI manual for Hoover City Schools.

Follow this link to download a copy of the RTI Assessment and Resource Guide for 2015-16.

Friday, July 31, 2015

ACT Aspire Results for Spring 2015

As promised by the state, we have received our ACT Aspire results much sooner this year.  Reports are still being released, so there are things we don't know yet, but we've seen enough so far to know that we have a lot to celebrate in the 2015 scores.

The ACT Aspire assessments are given in the 3rd through 8th grade (in 2016, they will extend through the 10th grade).  The tests are aligned with the same ACT test that high school juniors and seniors take to qualify for college admission.  In 2015, students were tested in the areas of English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science.  Students scores fall into the category of Ready (the student is on track to meet college readiness benchmarks on the ACT), Close (the student is below but near the readiness benchmark), and Needs Intervention (the student is below the readiness benchmark).  If you want to know more about the student score reports, follow this link

The English test focuses primarily on the development of language skills.  The college readiness benchmark for this test is based on typical performance in a first-year college English composition course.  Based on the spring 2015 results, 82% of our students are Ready in this area (a 2% increase from 2014).  The National Percentile Rank (NPR) for all students in this area was 63.3 (this means our students scored as well as 63.3% of the national population who took this test).  
The Mathematics test focuses on the ability to solve problems, justify mathematical explanations for why things work the way they do, and use mathematical drawings and expressions as models for understanding problems.  The college readiness benchmark for this test is based on typical performance in a first-year college mathematics course, and because mathematics is challenging for the typical college freshman, this is a more difficult benchmark for students to reach.  Based on the spring 2015 results, 65% of our students are Ready in this area (a 5% increase from 2014).  The NPR for all students in this area was 68.3. 
The Reading test focuses on the understanding increasingly challenging text and integrating knowledge and ideas from different sources.  The college readiness benchmark for this test is based on typical performance in a first-year college history course.  Based on the spring 2015 results, 58% of our students are Ready in this area (a 3% increase from 2015).  The NPR for all students in this area was 65.3.  
The Science test focuses on the use of science practices using investigations of real-world scenarios. The college readiness benchmark for this test is based on typical performance in a first-year college biology course, and like mathematics, this is a difficult benchmark to reach because college biology is a course in which a lot of college freshmen will struggle.  This was the first year that we assessed grades 3 through 8 using the Aspire Science test.  Based on the spring 2015 results, 55% of our students are Ready in this area.  The NPR for all students in this area was 65.3. 
Because 2015 was the second year that we have administered the ACT Aspire, we received a new score category this year for those students who took Aspire tests in both 2014 and 2015.  This new score category is a Growth Percentile, and it represents the degree to which each student increased his or her score from one year to the next in comparison with the national population.  A Growth Percentile higher than 50 means that a student made greater gains than at least half of the national population, and our combined scores for all tests except Science exceeded that measure.  Growth Percentile was not reported for Science this year because 2015 was the first year for our students.  Growth Percentile scores for the other tested areas were:  
  • English- 55.0
  • Mathematics- 54.9
  • Reading- 53.2
I am very proud of our students and teachers for the great improvements evident in this year's scores. We must always be careful about reading too much, for good or bad, into a single measurement of any kind.  What the data says is not as important as how we respond to the data as educators.  When we see evidence that students are growing and improving, it helps us to know that we are doing the right things.  I am excited for the future of this school system and the children it serves!  

Ron Dodson, PhD
Assistant Superintendent of Instruction
Hoover City Schools 

Civics and Government Awareness Month: August 2015

The Alabama State Department of Education has designated August 2015 as Civics and Government Awareness Month.  Dr. Bice is encouraging teachers and school leaders to visit the Alabama legislature to witness state government in action, so they can share firsthand with their students what they learned from the visit.  The Alabama legislature's special session reconvenes on August 3, 2015 and may continue through August 11 and provides an opportunity to see government in action as we start a new school year.

The ALSDE also encourages 7th Grade Civics and 12th Grade Government teachers to consider the following exploring the following activities during August:

  • Review the roles and responsibilities of local school board members, state school board members, county commissioners, and city council members.
  • Visit a meeting conducted by any of the above governmental entities.
  • Invite school board members and other elected or appointed officials to visit a classroom in one or more of your schools.
  • Review the three branches of state government and focus on the roles and responsibilities of your state representatives and senators in the Alabama legislature. Invite your legislators to visit your classroom.
  • Review the structure of the three branches of federal government and focus on the roles and responsibilities of the US Congress and Alabama's Congressional delegation.
The month of August also coincides with the US Congressional break, and some of our national leaders could be invited to visit your classrooms.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

HCS Students earn record number of International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas and record number of Advanced Placement (AP) qualifying scores

The 2015 Hoover High School International Baccalaureate (IB) graduates earned an unprecedented number of IB diplomas.  HHS had 38 students going for the full IB diploma and 31 of those students made the required scores to earn this prestigious diploma, recognized worldwide as a mark of exemplary achievement.  Both of these numbers are record highs for Hoover City Schools.

IB Coordinator, Brad Coltrane made the following observation about the 2015 IB graduating class.  "In addition to the record number of students earning diplomas, we also saw an increase in students taking individual IB exams, which allows students the benefits of IB classes with additional flexibility. In most subjects, Hoover IB students score well above the national and worldwide averages.  Passing one IB exam is considered a key indicator of college success; all of our IB diploma students passed three or more."

He continues to say, "I am extremely proud of our pass rate of 82%.  Our district goal is 80%, because it shows you are providing students a very strong chance of success and also providing the opportunity for students who may struggle, have to work harder, or care more about the process than the result.  We had numerous students in the class who overcame personal and academic obstacles to complete the program, and they are all very well prepared for college."

The 2015 HHS IB classmembers are not only very capable in the classroom, but in all areas of life.  Several will be attending college on both athletic and academic scholarships.  Some are award-winning artists and musicians.  One will be serving our county in the U.S. Marine Corps.  Hoover IB graduates will be freshmen this fall at Princeton, Yale, Georgetown, Alabama, Duke, Columbia, UAB, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Berea, and Rhodes.

In addition to historical IB success, Hoover City Schools also saw an unprecedented number of qualifying scores on Advanced Placement exams.  Hoover and Spain Park High School students took 1,440 Advanced Placement exams.  Our students earned a qualifying score on 925 of these exams!  Congratulations to all of these students and to the teachers from kindergarten through grade 12 who prepared them to undertake rigorous college-level coursework while in high school.

A qualifying score on an AP exam has the potential to earn our students college credit at many colleges and universities.  The average cost of a three-hour course at Alabama and Auburn is approximately $1,000.  If each of the 925 qualifying scores resulted in a single course worth of credit at Alabama or Auburn, Hoover families would save $925,000 in college tuition based on this year's results!  While not every score will earn college credit (or some students will not opt for the college credit), many of our students will go to out-of-state colleges and prestigious private universities where the tuition costs are much greater.  Hoover City Schools does a great service to our students and their families by preparing them for success in AP.

One of the areas of extraordinary success in AP is the social studies department of Spain Park High School.  Under the leadership of department chair, Richard Stamper, and Craig Thompson, Spain Park students earned 204 qualifying scores in this discipline alone including 72 qualifying scores in Human Geography and 70 qualifying scores in U. S. History.  When asked about the success of the social studies program Mr. Stamper stated, "Our belief at SPHS is that enrollment in AP courses is critical if our school is to remain one of the strongest academic high schools in Alabama. Even for students who do not "pass" the AP exam, exposure to the rigor of the AP US History curriculum is critical as they move into a university setting.  The growth of the AP US History program, along with solid pass rates, are clear indicators that there continues to be untapped academic potential within the students of Hoover City Schools."  These teachers encourage students who have not previously considered Advanced Placement to take on the challenge of these courses--and their results speak for themselves.  Congratulations, SPHS social studies teachers and students!

Another notable area of achievement in Advanced Placement is physics.  Even at many very large high schools like HHS and SPHS, there is a small enrollment in AP physics.  Between both of our high schools, our students earned 107 qualifying scores in an AP physics class; 44 in AP Physics 1 and 63 in calculus based AP physics, mechanics.

Jeff Johnson, who moved from HHS to SPHS last year to grow the AP physics program there, made the following comment, "We finished our first year of AP Physics 1 and AP Physics C at Spain Park and I could not be more proud of these remarkable students. These students stepped up to the challenge of AP Physics and demonstrated a tremendous amount of growth over the year.  They never gave up, never stopped accepting the challenges that were thrown at them.  I am proud of the scores they achieved but, more than any number, I am proud of the perseverance and 'grittiness' they demonstrated.  If I could give my students a gift, it would be the ability to see themselves through my eyes and realize how special they are.  I am so so proud of them."

Dr. Mark Conner directs the engineering department at HHS and teaches calculus based AP physics.  His former students continue to share with him the value of what they learned in his course.  Ashley Garner, Class of 2013, wrote to Dr. Conner, "Thank you for making me take AP Physics C.  I would be totally lost in Engineering Physics 1600 right now, and I definitely would not have scored 53 percentage points above the class average on our fist exam (had I not taken this class.)"

HCS students also earned qualifying scores in biology, calculus, chemistry, computer science, English language, English literature, environmental science, European history, Chinese, German, Japanese, Spanish, economics, music theory, psychology, statistics, art and U. S. government.

In addition to a record number of AP qualifying scores, Hoover City Schools had an unprecedented number of students earning recognition from the College Board because of their achievement on AP exams during their high school careers.  The College Board recognizes four different levels of achievement which are summarized in the table below:

Note:  A qualifying score on an AP exam is a score of 3, 4 or 5.
Hoover High School Awardees
Spain Park High School Awardees
District Awardees
AP Scholar
A score of ‘3’ or better on 3 or more
AP Exams
AP Scholar with Honor
An average score of ‘3.25’ or higher on all AP exams taken, and scores of ‘3’ or better on four or more of these exams
AP Scholar with Distinction
An average score of ‘3.5’ or higher on all AP exams taken, and scores of ‘3’ or better on five or more of these exams
National AP Scholar
An average score of ‘4’ or higher on all AP exams taken, and scores of ‘4’ or higher on eight or more of these exams

One of the students earning the National AP Scholar recognition was SPHS graduate, Elizabeth Sturgeon.  Elizabeth's parents, Richard and Jill Sturgeon are teachers at HHS and SPHS respectively, and Richard is the AP U. S. History teacher at HHS.  Elizabeth will be attending Samford University this fall where she will BEGIN with 28 hours of college credit, just shy of being a sophomore before her first day of college!  When asked about her AP experience she said, "Beyond the advanced material in AP, I am glad that I have had teachers who pushed beyond the AP curriculum to help me think and just be educated.  I am appreciative that AP goes beyond the test to deeper learning.  I had some of the best teachers who challenged me.  Plus, thanks to Mr. Carboni's AP Calculus class, I do not have to take Calculus in college."

In addition to Elizabeth, other SPHS National AP Scholars were Rachel Ferrell, Ayaka Fujihashi, Veena Krishnan, Christina McLaughlin, and Joshua Taggert.  Rebecca Townsend from HHS also earned the National AP Scholar designation.  Congratulations to these outstanding students!