NORTHBRIDGE, Mass. – Northbridge High School's decision to open enrollment in advanced placement classes to all students – not just the best – has completely changed the culture at the school, said interim Schools Superintendent Nancy Spitulnik.
Excited by the challenge and the rewards, students at all levels sign on for AP classes offered in math, English, science, history and psychology. And, because of a three-year grant from Mass Math + Science Initiative (MMSI) that began last year, students profit in more ways than one.
High school students who take advanced placement courses are learning the same things and taking the same tests as college students, explained MMSI enrollment director John Smolenski. He attended a meeting Tuesday morning to congratulate Northbridge students, and he came bearing gifts – checks of $100 or more many of the students earned with their test results.
Combined, Northbridge students received $8,200 in monetary rewards, said grant designee Aaron Katz, a guidance counselor at NHS.
“They are national exams; everyone in America takes the same test on the same day at the same time,’’ Smolenski said.
Some students take just one AP class; others take two or three, and looking out at the crowded auditorium, NHS Principal Michael Gauthier said he didn’t see one student who wasn’t also involved in after-school sports or activities.
There was a time when the auditorium would have been just a quarter filled with advance placement students, Gauthier said. In 2011, 59 students took advanced level courses. Last year, the first with MMSI, that number jumped to 156.
The interest and performance of the students “is truly, truly remarkable,’’ Smolenski said. “Northbridge just took off like a rocket ship,’’ exceeding state and national averages.
Not only does the program allow students to benefit financially in the short-term, but they are better prepared for the more difficult college courses and tests, Smolenski said.
In addition, he said, employees are hungry for workers skilled in math and science, offering positions right out of college that pay $100,000 or more.
A full report on the MMSI program is attached.