BHS students excel on AP tests

Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Advanced Placement students at Berryville High School include, from left to right, Paige McGehee, Nic Harp, LoraGrace Hill, Harley Tittsworth, Abby Thurman, Mason Mavry and Samuel Ball.
Submitted photo

By Haley Schichtl

Advance Placement tests were different than usual last school year because of the school closures, but Berryville High School’s AP students didn’t let that stop them from earning the highest percentage of passing scores on their AP exams Berryville has ever had.

After schools were closed just a few weeks before exams, the students had to miss out on all that time of review and study sessions.

“They were under really extreme, unusual circumstances to succeed the way they did,” Berryville gifted & talented teacher Delene McCoy said. “We had the largest number of passing scores ever.”

The exams were also online, so the students took them remotely on a timer.

“They had to be committed, find a place in their home or somewhere with internet access to set up,” McCoy said. “They were pretty much on their own.”

The AP exams are ranked from 1 to 5 and a student has to make a score of 3 or higher to pass and earn college credit.

Senior Nic Harp said he took AP U.S. history his sophomore year, AP language and composition and AP government his junior year, and is taking AP literature and AP studio art this year. He has passed all of his exams so far. He passed his history and government exams each with a 5, and a 4 on his language and composition exam.

“We have some phenomenal teachers here. Matt Sayer — I’ve had him for two AP classes now, and his prep work is amazing,” Harp said. “You have to have a teacher who actually cares and gives you the extra study prep. I’ve heard from AP students from other schools, whose teachers just kind of send them on their own. But our teachers guide us through it.”

Harp said that commitment is two-sided, and he noticed that the most committed students who showed up for all the study sessions were the ones who made the best scores.

Paige McGehee took AP biology and AP language last year, and passed the biology exam with a 4. She is now taking AP literature and college algebra.

“I like that AP classes are rigorous. They challenge me, and I like getting that college credit, of course,” McGehee said. “I like knowing that if I can do well in this, then I can excel in college.”

McGehee said she wants to study to become a high school biology teacher.

“I’ve definitely been inspired by my AP biology teacher, [Mary McCullough],” she said. “I was out of school a lot because I had surgery and I had an accident, so I missed a lot of classwork. She made sure to email me everything and made sure I was doing well. ... She kind of inspired me to be a biology teacher.”

LoraGrace Hill said she took AP U.S. history her sophomore year, AP language and AP government her junior year, and AP literature this year. She said she has passed all the AP exams she’s taken except one.

“I’m going to college to study business accounting,” Hill said. “In my experience in doing test prep, it really helped. Our teachers really want to be involved and make sure we succeed.”

Harley Tittsworth took AP biology, AP language and AP computer science principles, and passed the AP biology test. He is now taking AP literature, AP government and college algebra.

Abby Thurman took AP U.S. history her sophomore year and AP language and composition and AP government her junior year, all of which she passed. She is now taking AP literature and AP environmental science.

“I would like to go to college and major in communication sciences and disorders to become a speech pathologist,” Thurman said. “A few weeks in advance for every test, I just start going over my notes. My teacher, [Matt Sayer] for AP gov made sure we had study sessions and packets and that was very helpful.”

“Matt Sayer has had a phenomenal record in scores. His prep is excellent for the students,” McCoy said. “The teacher is a key piece in these students’ success. They go above and beyond. They’re really pushing these kids to do their best, and it shows when they get these scores back.”

Harp and Thurman are both AP scholars, meaning they have an average of at least 3.5 on all AP exams they have taken. The school has nine total AP scholars, three with distinction, which means they have made a 3.5 average on at least five different exams.

McCoy said schools in the state are required to offer four AP classes. Berryville offers 10.

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