DERIDDER, La. (Fort Polk Progress) - The Vernon Parish School Board and Beauregard Parish School Board in Louisiana teamed up this school year to host Advanced Placement exam study sessions for students from Leesville High School (LHS), Pickering High School (PHS), Rosepine High School (RHS) and DeRidder High School (DHS). The sessions are funded by the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) grants in their respective districts.
Throughout the school year, VPSB and BPSB rotated AP study sessions in their schools, with English AP study sessions taking place at LHS, Math AP study sessions at DHS, and Science AP study sessions at RHS. There were three study sessions for each subject each school year, one in the fall and two in the spring.
"It's helped get the students ready; not only is it reinforcing what they're learning in the classroom, but it's also helping prepare them for the AP exams at the end of the year," said Cassady Hickingbottom, DeRidder High School assistant principal and AP program coordinator.
The four-hour AP study sessions took place on designated Saturdays, and consisted of the NMSI instructors reviewing content and test-taking strategies to prepare the students for their AP exams.
"It gives students a different perspective on the content from what their teacher has done. These NMSI instructors are people who have taught AP for a long time and have been very successful with their AP programs," said Renita Page, a VPSB curriculum director overseeing the AP program. "They know what to tell those kids to look for and what they need to study for."
Eleventh graders Caleb Crouse of LHS, Sylvia Cini of RHS and Da'Laishia O'Neal of PHS--all of whom are military-connected students from Fort Polk--found the AP study sessions beneficial.
Crouse, who attended study sessions for his AP English Language and Composition, AP Biology and AP Computer Science courses, said the experience was overall very educational.
"I acquired more knowledge and strategies for the AP exams," Crouse said. "They were actually helpful and readily prepared me for all of my AP tests."
Cini, who will be taking the AP Biology and AP English Language and Composition exams this spring, said the study sessions have shown how to approach and complete AP exams successfully.
"They give me a different view on how to take the test and what works best for me," Cini said. "They are going to allow me to pass the AP test."
O'Neal appreciates that the AP study sessions were available to students in the area.
"I'm grateful because not every school gets the chance to have people come to help us out," O'Neal said. "They have refreshed the information that my teacher has taught me."
Page said VPSB and BPSB AP teachers also attended the study sessions so they can learn as well.
Lela Magee, LHS AP Physics I teacher, said the physics presenters at the study sessions were good.
"Through observation of and conversation with the presenters, I gained insights into how to present topics in different ways," Magee said. "The study sessions are an excellent resource."
Joshua Beard, DHS AP Physics I teacher, said the AP study sessions are helpful and appreciated.
"I get to see how other teachers teach and explain material to evaluate my own methods. I sometimes get shown that I have misconceptions as well," Beard said. "I am glad we have them."
Beard and Magee hope their students took away valuable lessons from the study sessions.
"I hope my students realized they have learned more than they realize," Magee said.
"I hope they gained confidence in what they know and a better understanding in what they are struggling with," Beard added. "As long as my students can learn and get better-even in only one thing--it was worth it."
The districts paired up in order to make the AP study sessions easier to coordinate with NMSI and make as many of them accessible to the students they serve. And Page and Hickingbottom said their coordinated efforts went smoothly and the students enjoyed learning from one another.
"Students can see that they're right on track, and see what's going on in the other schools," Hickingbottom said. "It gave them more opportunities to hear from someone on a national level who is an expert in teaching in that field cover specific areas."
In addition to funding the AP study sessions, NMSI sends in AP course instructors from across the nation for each AP class VPSB and BPSB students are taking in the English, Math and Science categories.
One of NMSI's goals is to provide "military-connected students from coast to coast with well-trained teachers, challenging Advanced Placement coursework, and strong foundation in STEM subjects that will prepare them for the rigors of college and career, whether military or civilian."
Fort Polk Progress helped both districts secure their NMSI grants to make these AP study sessions possible.
"We're happy to be a part of helping students in their pursuit of academic excellence. And the AP program plays a big role in this," said Michael Reese, Fort Polk Progress chairman. "We're grateful to NMSI for this grant and to VPSB and BPSB for making the AP program a priority so these students will be successful in high school and beyond."
Page and Hickingbottom long for the study sessions to have a lasting impact on their students.