PCHS nets more prestigious awards
Ryan Summerlin September 2, 2014
The honors for the Park City High School Advanced Placement classes program keep rolling in.
Just months after Governor Gary Herbert named the school the top-performing AP school in the state for the second year in a row, The College Board has named two former PCHS students, Robbie Derber and Anna Buchman, as State AP Scholars, an award given annually to one male and one female student in each state who passed the most AP exams with the highest scores.
Principal Bob O’Connor said Derber took 18 AP classes in his time at PCHS, while Buchman took 17. Both graduated in the spring.
"That’s almost every AP offering we have," he said. "We only have 24. So 18 and 17 is incredibly high."
O’Connor said both the State AP Scholars award and the governor’s recognition are a testament to the school’s emphasis on encouraging students to challenge themselves.
"We take great pride in it," O’Connor said. "Our goal is to push more kids to take AP classes and risk that (exam) pass rate, just to prepare as many kids as we can for the rigors of a college experience."
About 52 percent of students in the high school took AP classes last year, with a pass rate of about 75 percent on the end-of-class exams, O’Connor said. Taking the classes offers students a chance to prepare themselves for the difficulty of a college courseload.
"Those kids come back, and they’ll visit their teachers and us and let us know that they’re way above their college-level classes," he said. "They’re very well prepared and will sometimes say college is easier than high school was."
Assistant Principal Lindsay Anderson, who oversees the AP classes, said that during the admission process, top universities consider whether students have taken AP classes.
"If (students) want to go to prestigious universities across the nation, those colleges like to see that AP course on their transcript," Anderson said. "We are seeing a trend where they’re not accepting the AP scores necessarily, but they want to see the rigor on their transcript and that they’ve been exposed to that."
Park City High School’s success in its AP offerings is due largely to the community’s recognition of the importance of education, O’Connor said. But there’s another important factor — the teachers, who take personal pride in seeing students push themselves and do well.
"These scores get pushed out in July, and these teachers are immediately logging in to see where their pass rate is," Anderson said. "And if it’s lower than the previous year, they’re devastated. They take it very personal, and they’re back in working their curriculum for the next year."
But even with the success the school has seen in recent years, O’Connor said he’d sacrifice the recognition to see even more students in AP classes.
"If we wanted to win (the governor’s award) each year, we would put a gatekeeper in place — to take an AP class, you have to meet these requirements," O’Connor said, noting that participation among some demographics in the school is lagging. "But we’re just going to try to get as many kids in those classes as we can."