Temple High School and Bowdon High School were awarded as Advanced Placement (AP) Challenge Schools, recognizing the schools for offering options in a smaller school setting.
Carroll County Schools Superintendent Scott Cowart said the naming acknowledges that the schools, which have medium-sized enrollments, have made an "intentional effort" toward implementing the program.
Cowart said the system as a whole has had a goal in recent years to increase the number of students taking AP classes, the number of courses offered and the number of students who take one of the AP exams in their area of study.
"It's a testament to our teachers and our students who are energized and engaged, trying to get ready for what comes after high school," Cowart said.
To become an AP Challenge School, which only 62 Georgia schools achieved, a school of fewer than 900 students with AP courses in each of the four core areas (English, math, science and social studies).
Statewide, Georgia has moved up to 12th in the nation in the percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher — a passing score — on AP exams. The state ranked 13th last year.
When results are broken out by subgroup, Georgia's African-American students rank second in the nation (behind Washington, D.C.) in the percentages of students scoring a 3 or higher on the exams.
Only five other states in the country had a greater percentage of AP exam takers last year, a percentage of 41.1 percent. That's compared to 32.4 percent participation across the nation.
"These results show that Georgia's students can compete against any students in the nation," Georgia School Superintendent Dr. John Barge said in a release.
Karen Suddeth, principal of Temple High, said that it is the school's initiative to offer as many opportunities as possible, no matter its size.
"We have a strong belief in the AP program and that providing a quality program will lead to improvements across the board, throughout the school," Suddeth said. "We've also focused on the courses that feed into our AP classes, like our honors courses, because we think everything should be aligned to make our students as successful as they can be."
Travis Thomas, principal of Bowdon High, credits the honor to both the students and faculty.
"It's a credit to our students that we have enough demand to fill these classes," Thomas said. "And it's also a credit to our faculty for having the willingness to put in the extra work to prepare for these more challenging classes."
Both principals are aware of the challenges they face as heads of a smaller schools.
"It's harder for smaller schools because of the tighter schedules we have, the fewer teachers and fewer students to work with, but we've been trying to put the AP program to the forefront the past few years, and it's worked," Suddeth said.
Cowart said that smaller schools also have the challenge of a smaller proportion of students who are interested in and can handle the more rigorous workload.
"To get kids interested in doing it, it's just like it is with adults — we have to show them the reward that they can get in the end, which is college credit in this case," Cowart said.
AP classes and exams are administered by the College Board, which also administers the SAT. AP classes offer rigorous college-level training options to students in high school. Students who receive a 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams may receive college credit.
In the past decade, the state has made several efforts to increase AP participation, including approving funds to pay for students to take at least one AP exam per year. Budget cuts reduced that support to only one AP exam for economically disadvantaged students beginning in May 2011, support which remains in place.
Additionally, the Department of Education has distributed the AP Teacher Training Grants since 2006, funding more than $1.5 million in grant awards to train more than 2,000 new AP teachers.
These awards have allowed more than 1,000 new AP courses to be offered in public high schools throughout the state.