DeRidder High School, like some schools in Vernon Parish, now has the funding and training to expand its advanced placement (AP) classes, due to a grant.
The $354,247 check was presented to a crowd of teachers, administration, students and Beauregard Parish School Board members, yesterday.
The Department of Defense, Fort Polk Progress, and the National Math and Science Initiative College Readiness Program (NMSI) contributed to the grant. It is intended to aid schools in military communities.
"Anytime a school can increase the number of courses that are AP courses, that raises the academic level of the school," said Kim Hayes, K12 Instructional Advisor for Beauregard Parish School Board. "We're not only hoping to raise the amount and types of courses. It provides training for our teachers. This summer, they went to Baton Rouge for four days for content training for their content area. It's not only for AP, but our elementary teachers can receive content training. We plan to raise the academic achievement of our student, in general; from the lower grades to high school students."
The National Math and Science Initiative College Readiness Program (NMSI) joined with DeRidder High School to provide training and support with classes for instructors and administration. The grant will also pay for 50 percent of the cost of the AP exams.
"We are excited about the opportunity for training," Hayes said. "For the students, they are able to benefit academically. Their focus is on AP, which is very important for military students who move around. They move from state-to-state and, often times, the curriculum is not consistent. With AP courses, it doesn't matter where you move to. It helps them with active consistency."
AP classes make students more attractive to colleges, prepare them for college, and also give the them college credit.
The Department of Defense provides funding to NMSI, and Fort Polk Progress matches a certain percentage of the contribution. Fort Polk Progress matched $50,000 for the program in DeRidder.
"It's a program that is at the intersection of some wonderful areas," said Michael Reese, Chairman of Fort Polk Progress.
"It's funding source is targeted at improving education for military-connected students. But, in a school like this, every student can participate. It's good for the local community and the military-connected students,” said Reese.
NMSI works with over 20 high schools in Louisiana, including schools in Vernon Parish. DeRidder will be the first school in Beauregard Parish to be affiliated with NMSI.
Vernon Parish is already year into the program. They started earlier due to a higher concentration of military-related students in the area.
Because of these grants, the Vernon Parish School Board was able to increase the number of AP classes it offers at Pickering, Rosepine and Leesville high schools from 14 to 17 and from 208 students to 301.
In an interview with the Fort Polk Guardian's Jean Dubiel, in January, Col. David Athey, former garrison commander, said, “The success rate for students that take AP is great. Not only do they do well in college, but the percent that graduate goes up exponentially as well.”
At one point, there was a threshold for a percentage of military students in a school district to be able to qualify for the grant. Reese said, "We understood better that there are surrounding school districts, like Beauregard, that should have access to the same programs, even if their number of military connected students is less."