University High tops the world
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Jan. 11, 2005
Its Advanced Placement scores
best among similar-size schools
By Aaron Mackey
University High School's Advanced
Placement program is at the head of its class
globally when it comes to testing success,
according to the board that oversees testing
around the world.
The TUSD school's overall scores
on the English, government and U.S. history
placement tests were the highest in the world
among schools of a similar size, according to a
letter from the College Board, which oversees
The Advanced Placement program
allows high school students to attempt college
credit by taking tests in subject areas such as
English and calculus. In addition to receiving
credit, students can be placed in tougher
college courses as a result of the tests.
No other school in the world had
a larger proportion of its student body succeed
on the three tests than University High, Trevor
Packer, the program's executive director, said
in a letter to school Principal Stuart Baker.
Baker said the recognition
indicates the high quality of education and
student success at University High.
"It's symbolic of really an
overall program that we have at University
(High)," he said.
University High is a highly
competitive college preparatory school in the
Tucson Unified School District that offers more
than 25 Advanced Placement tests.
In his letter to Baker, Packer
said the College Board compared University
High's scores with those of schools that have a
similar enrollment, between 500 and 999
The total student population is
then compared with the number of students who
received a grade of 3 or higher on the test,
which equals a passing grade.
"No other school had a greater
proportion of its student body succeed in AP
English Language and Composition; AP Government
and Politics: Comparative; and AP U.S. History
last year," the letter said.
This is the first year that the
College Board has compiled the information and
made it available to schools, Baker said.
He said several factors led to
the students' success on the test, including the
focus of the course, quality teachers and
But more than teaching to a test,
Baker said teachers work closely with one
another to develop long-term student success.
One intangible element of success
is the environment created at University High,
where intelligent students push each other to
"When you get a bunch of very
bright people together, there's a synergy that
creates more than the sum of its individual
parts," Baker said.
University High student Rachel
Saul said the school's atmosphere creates
success by itself.
"The environment is positive
because everyone wants to learn," she said.
Saul, a 17-year-old junior,
received a 3 on the AP Government and Politics:
Comparative test. Though she was somewhat
disappointed with the score, Saul said she
enjoyed the course.
The course gave Saul a new
perspective on worldwide news events and
politics. "You become very aware of what's going
on because of the course," she said.
While many factors contributed to
the school's overall performance, Baker said a
great deal of the credit goes to the students
who took the test.
"It really does come down to how
well our students performed," Baker said
Student Greg Nix, 18, scored a 4
on the U.S. History AP test last spring. A
senior this year, Nix said he felt very prepared
for the test.
University High is an excellent
school, and the recognition is a wonderful
honor, said Patti Lopez, TUSD deputy
superintendent. It shows that public high
schools can compete with private college
preparatory schools, she said.
"Public education is and will
continue to offer high-quality education," Lopez
Baker agreed. "It clearly says
that we can give a very high-quality education,"
While the scores will be looked
at annually as a benchmark for success, Baker
said, they won't affect the school's academic
"If we start making this be the
entire focus, it may be counterproductive,"
Focusing instead on increasing
the academic rigor will lend itself to success
on the AP tests, Lopez said.
At another Tucson school, St.
Gregory College Preparatory, seven seniors were
designated by the College Board as AP Scholars
because of their performance on the exams, said
Deborah Daun, a publicist for the school.
Rebecca Porter received the AP
Scholar with Distinction Award for earning an
average grade of 3.5 on all exams taken, getting
a 3 or higher on five or more of the exams.
Students are graded on a scale of
1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.
Vittorio Gonzalez and Nathan
Gregory were designated AP Scholars With Honor
by earning an average grade of at least 3.25 on
all exams taken and grades of 3 or higher on
four or more tests.
Lindsay Lazar, Jessica
Medwied-Savage, Matthew Milner and Andrea
Richardson qualified for the AP Scholar Award
for completing three or more AP exams with
grades of 3 or higher.