Dedham High celebrates AP students, program

By Tom De Santes, Wicked Local Dedham

DEDHAM — Opportunity. Access. Achievement. It’s a goal schools set, but for students at Dedham High School it’s become a reality through the Mass Insight Education’s Mass Math + Science Initiative (MMSI).

On Thursday, Sept 20 at the annual MMSI kick-off, the Dedham High School celebrated its success in the initiative aimed at increasing participation and performance in the Advanced Placement program. Dedham High principal Ron McCarthy welcomed to the auditorium more than 260 students enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) math, science, and English courses. Additional sophomores, juniors and seniors joined the rally to hear the results from last year’s performance – based on scores on the AP exams. Qualifying scores on the national exam of 3-4-5 on a scale of 1-5, are most often accepted as college credit.

Since joining MMSI three years ago, the number of students earning qualifying exam scores in AP math, science and English has increased by 57 percent - each year continually exceeding its goals set by MMSI. A slide show by MMSI President Mort Orlov highlighted the results and significant gains before the packed auditorium.

The event also encouraged other students to enroll in AP courses.

“We approach AP from a different viewpoint. Instead of building barriers based on students’ pasts, we open access to help them see a different future. If students come to us and have decided they want to challenge themselves, we not only welcome them – we build in a support system that demonstrates we are with them all the way,” Orlov said.

MMSI involves intensive teacher training as well as Saturday student study sessions – both designed to enhance the academic quality and opportunities for students.

In addition to the qualifying scores, the benefits of enrolling in an AP courses are more than just earning college credit.

“For those of you in Advanced Placement courses, the transition will be a lot smoother when you get to college,” McCarthy said. “This is not a college-level course. This is a college course.”

This school year, Dedham High School saw a 38 percent increase in the number of students enrolling in AP math, science, and English – the three subject areas designed to promote success in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) - areas forecasted to experience the most growth in the next decade. Dedham High School is one of over 60 high schools across the state selected to participate in the Mass Math + Science Initiative to promote and encourage STEM education.

Highlighting the event, a video of alumni and parent testimonials offered a glimpse into the benefits of AP after high school.

Dedham High School alumni Cam Clifford, now a sophomore at Babson University, earned credit for AP English and although did not earn credit for his statistics class, said he was able to earn an A as a college freshman in statistics while his classmates were struggling with the concepts. AP provided him a foundation that he carried into college.

Fellow alumna Liz Marino, now studying at Hoffstra University in New York, said, “It’s definitely worth it. It really does prepare you for college.”

Marino said the AP credits she earned allowed her to opt out of several required courses leaving her more opportunities to concentrate on her major courses - subjects she was more interested in studying.

In addressing the current students, School Committee member Susan Butler Walco, another parent of an AP alumni student, applauded the support system that peers and teachers build during the AP experience. Having seen her own son’s success in AP, she assured students, “Everyone in Dedham cares about your education.”

To further demonstrate the community’s support for the program and to the students, in his address state Rep. Paul McMurtry, D-Dedham, echoed the importance of MMSI in helping our next generation remain competitive in the dominating STEM fields.

“It’s important to the overall economic health and to everyone’s well being. Important to you, your future, our community, our Commonwealth, and our country,” he said.

Also showing support for the program, state Sen. Mike Rush noted how Dedham is raising the bar and building a statewide model for success.

“I am pleased that my colleagues in the Legislature recognize the importance of a program such as the Mass Math + Science Initiative for the students here in Dedham and all across the Commonwealth,” Rush said. “The tremendous results we have seen from this initiative is a testament to the teachers, as well as the hard work the students put in to give themselves an advantage before they enter college. The STEM Program in Dedham truly is a model for all Advanced Placement driven curriculum across the Commonwealth.”