Siebe requests FHS students stampede to AP

Though Farragut High School students have set their preliminary class schedule for the 2017-18 school year, it’s not too late for hundreds to upgrade and accept the challenge of advanced placement courses.

“We really think that we have more students who should be taking AP courses and the exams than currently are,” Ryan Siebe, FHS principal, said about his estimated student body count of more than 1,800 for the coming school year. “… Probably several hundred more that should be in AP courses.”

Last school year, “The most notable point is that we had almost 1,100 advanced placement exams, and that’s huge — that’s probably the highest number [at FHS] in at least the last five years and probably ever,” Siebe said about the accomplishment of 571 students, which collectively scored significantly above both state and national averages last school year in AP exams according to recently released data.

However, “We think that we have the potential to have about 2,000 exams,” Siebe said. “… They don’t have to take three or four. If they’d take one a year they’d be better for it. We encourage them to think about, ‘what am I passionate about? What am I good at?’ And then find that [AP] course. There’s AP art, there’s AP music. … There are a ton of options out there.”

Adding up total dollar value of FHS Class of 2017 scholarships, “I want to say it’s $27 million,” Siebe said. “… We had 14 National Merit Finalists, we had 11 kids with perfect ACTs in the building last year,” some of which “would complete 10 to 15 AP courses” in their four years at FHS.

“It’s easy to look at kids like that and go, ‘Oh, they’re AP-calibur kids and I’m not,’” Siebe added. “When in reality, we think the majority of our students — about 70 percent — should be AP-level kids taking AP-level courses.”

When scoring “three or above” on an AP test, “Most schools accept college credit for that,” Siebe said. “…. Seventy-six percent of the [FHS] kids that are taking these exams are scoring three or above. And you compare that to the nation, which is 60 percent.”

“We offer 35 different AP classes,” said Candice Greer, FHS cirriculum principal. A student “can take up to eight per [school] year. … We offer AP to our freshman. We have a great deal of freshmen who take AP world history, AP human geography.”

Within Knox County Schools, “Nobody offers the number of courses we do or gives the number of exams that we do,” Siebe said.

“In reality a lot of kids will just take one, two or maybe three” in a school year,” he added. “We do have some that will take six or seven.

“The important thing here is we know that when a kid takes an advanced placement course then takes that exam, they are far more likely to be successful in college.”

For the upcoming school year, “We’re adding the advanced placement capstone, which is a research [course] and they write a paper as part of that as well,” Siebe said. “We’ve got a group of juniors starting that.

“And when they finish in their senior year, if they’ve taken three AP courses in addition to the capstone and do satisfactory on that, then they’re eligible for what’s called an AP diploma,” he added. “That kind of thing really sets you apart when colleges are looking at you.

“Too often we have this idea that students’ [grade point average] is so important, but colleges value not just a high GPA, they value more that you’re taking challenging courses. If you have straight-A’s and you’ve never taken a challenging course, that’s not nearly as impressive as somebody who has A’s an B’s but has taken AP-level courses when they can.”