Partnership helps more MHS students earn college credit

By: Merrillville Community Schools Last Updated: November 6, 2019

There are more opportunities than ever for Merrillville High School students to experience rigorous college-level coursework and earn college credit during their high school careers, thanks to the school’s partnership with Notre Dame and participation in the AP TIP-IN (Advanced Placement Teacher Investment Program).

A special note of celebration for the school was its percentage of qualifying AP test scores in calculus during the 2018-19 school year: 72 percent! 

A qualifying score means it was high enough to earn college credit. Therefore, 23 out of the 32 students who took the advanced placement test in calculus earned college credit.

What makes this percentage even more significant is that it surpasses the qualifying percentage of all participating AP-TIP IN schools, 38 percent, as well as the percentage from all Indiana schools, which was 52.2 percent. MHS student test average of 3.28 outscored the International/Global Average of 2.97!

Calculus teacher Mike Hoffman has been in the Notre Dame AP TIP-IN since it started at MHS. 

“The program gives me access to various support materials and activities written by teachers from around the state,” Hoffman said. “I can focus on teaching and helping kids to understand the content.  Credit must go to the kids though, because they are the ones who bought into the program and made the choice to put in all the hard work.”

During the 2014-15 school year, prior to participating in the Notre Dame program, MHS marked a total of 63 qualifying scores. In 2017-18, after two years in the program, qualifying scores jumped 223 percent to 141.  

Additionally, after only to years participating in the program, MHS AP English Language teacher was recognized by Notre Dame as the AP-TIP IN AP English Teacher of the Year!  

According to the website, the Notre Dame AP TIP-IN Program prepares “Indiana students for college by engaging them in rigorous math, science, and English coursework. We support them by delivering high quality professional development to their teachers, and we continue to support those teachers through the use of our Content Directors. We provide greater opportunities for students to engage in their work, and we reward them for their success.”

MHS Assistant Principal James Stamper is a former AP teacher.

“Before this program, AP teachers saw few resources or opportunities for professional development or collaboration” he said.

The Notre Dame AP TIP-IN Program gets teachers interested, trained and certified to expand the school’s AP courses offerings. This year, the course selection includes: English language and literature, biology, calculus, art, physics, statistics, chemistry and two different computer sciences.

Teacher training consists of namely four aspects: a fall conference, regional meetings, mock exams and trials, and a summer institute.

At the fall conference in Indianapolis, teachers are introduced to resources, training and best practices and have ample opportunities to network. MHS was the site of a recent regional meeting, hosting 32 different schools Oct. 2. 

Mock exams ready students for the big exam day and are graded by their teachers who learn from the experts how to grade like members of the college board. Teachers from all over the state grade the exams together and go back to their classrooms with more training and insight into their subjects.

The program also gives the students extended online access to tutoring and lessons.

Stamper says the next steps are getting students more access to these courses by reducing barriers that may prevent them from enrolling. In addition, school counselors will increase recruitment efforts for these classes that will prepare students for college. 

“Only 31 percent of students are enrolled in cohort AP classes,” he said. “We think we can get that higher and give more kids a taste of college classes.”