Students who pass AP exams at Taft High School increases
by BRIAN NADIG
As more students take Advanced Placement exams at Taft High School, the percentage of students passing the tests has increased.
"Over the last 3 years, we’ve asked our kids to eat their education veggies," principal Mark Grishaber said at the July 11 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council. "A lot of people thought we watered it down by getting more kids in (Advanced Placement classes), and we didn’t."
"This year 750 students at Taft took at least one AP test, and 35 percent (passed), This is up from 470 students and only 28 percent 3 years ago," Grishaber said after the meeting. Citywide the average in 2016 was about 40 percent, but that figure includes scores from gifted schools like Northside Prep High School, which have significantly higher passing rates than neighborhood schools.
Taft’s AP course list includes biology, calculus, English, psychology, music theory, Spanish, physics, U.S. government, world history and environmental science. The tests are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, with a score of 3 or higher considered passing, and many colleges award course credit for passing scores.
In recent years the school system has encouraged schools to increase their enrollment in AP classes. Critics have argued that the policy has led to unqualified students taking AP classes, while others contend that students who fail an AP test still benefit by participating in the rigorous curriculum offered by these classes.
It also was reported that the student instructional fee at Taft was increasing from $420 to $450.
In addition, seniors pay a $100 graduation ceremony fee, and students must pay for gym uniforms and locks as needed. Grishaber said that he is looking into creating a new gym uniform after some students complained that the design was from the 1950s and that athletic-style pants could become an option for students instead of shorts.
"I don’t want to raise fees, but I live in a practical world," Grishaber said, adding that the school has been hit with recent cuts in its annual operating budgets. "CPS took away our vending machines."
Grishaber said that the revenue generated from the $30 increase would be allocated for capital improvements, such as bathroom renovations and the installation of new water fountains.
About 80 percent of Taft’s students pay their fees, as students who qualify for free and reduced lunch can apply for a waiver. The recent options of paying fees online or as part of a payment plan have helped with the collection of fees and that mailings will start to go out reminding parents when a payment is due, Grishaber said.
In order to attend prom, students are required to have their fees paid off and to meet attendance goals, but senior attendance takes a noticeable drop after prom.
As a result, Grishaber said, the 2018 prom will be held Friday, June 8, two days before graduation, in an effort to increase attendance during the last two weeks of school. Last spring prom was held on May 20.
Also at the meeting, the council approved an allocation of $45,000 for a new iMac computer lab, which will be used for an international baccalaureate film and yearbook production.
It also was announced that the school’s projected enrollment for this fall is about 3,320 students, compared to 3,250 students enrolled last year. The school system is looking at opening a freshman academy for Taft at Irving Park Road and Oak Park Avenue in order to relieve overcrowding at the school.
The council also elected Kathy Fern as the new chairwoman, Anita Bernacchi as vice chairwoman and Barbara Lynch as secretary. It also selected Monica Moore, Deana Shoss and Kristina Estrada to replace three retiring parent council members, and Levin Plazas attended his first meeting as the new student LSC representative.
The council plans to meet the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. starting Sept. 12, with no meeting in January.
It also was announced that Grishaber, who was diagnosed with leukemia last year, would be on medical leave through Oct. 30. He is receiving a bone marrow transplant, with his sister as the donor.