BELFAST — At the Jan. 9 meeting of the Regional School Unit 71 Board of Directors, Molly Ross gave a presentation updating the board on the status — and success — of the Advanced Placement Program at Belfast Area High School.

Ross, a veteran teacher of 25 years, serves as Advanced Placement coordinator for RSU 71 and teaches AP World History at Belfast Area High School.

“Where we are is awesome,” Ross told the board.

Created by the College Board, Advanced Placement offers curricula and exams to high school students throughout the world. The results of AP exams are used by colleges for credit and/or placement. The AP coursework that leads to those exams is rigorous, prescriptive and designed to lay the foundation of knowledge required to pass the exam.

“They tell you what to teach,” Ross said, “and in what order you need to teach it.”

AP exams are the same all over the world. An AP calculus student in Australia takes the same exam as an AP calculus student at BAHS.

Passing an AP exam has several benefits for high school students, not least of which is financial.

Similar exams allow for a global comparison. AP courses look great on a high school transcript, alerting colleges to the quality and rigor of their coursework. Weighted grades and the opportunity to tackle college level coursework while still in high school also prove beneficial.

“If a student passes an AP exam, they can receive college credit,” Ross said. “If any of you have put children through college, you understand the financial benefit that could be. For $42.50 your child can take an AP exam and, if they pass, they could receive anywhere upwards of $17,000 in college credit.”

Belfast currently offers 10 AP courses. At present, 162 BAHS students, mainly juniors and seniors, are enrolled in at least one AP course. That is nearly a quarter of the BAHS enrollment.

Ross believes one of the great benefits of AP exams is the ability to compare scores nationally and globally. She used last year’s AP World History test as an example.

“It’s the same test,” Ross said. “The student that took the AP world history test in Texas, Montana … it’s the same test. It’s a really great way see how we stack up.”

BAHS AP World History students performed well. The national average for passing this exam in 2022 was 61%. BAHS students passed the test at 98.5%.

The BAHS AP program was recognized as an AP success story in 2021 by U.S. News and World Report. That year BAHS students passed 72% of the 143 AP exams taken.

Ross also requested that the board give the AP program more time on task. AP exams occur, globally, during the first two weeks of May. Maine’s school calendar, combined with weather cancellations, puts a strain on AP teachers attempting to work through an ambitious curriculum with their students.

In global studies, a snow day is an empire,” she said. “We do an empire a day. If we miss time, we have to compress it because the test date is in May.”

Ross suggested the board consider allowing remote sessions for AP students on snow days or on a pre-scheduled day. She also asked the board to consider suspending the NWEA spring testing requirement for juniors in AP courses.

One BAHS junior in the AP program will have to take 10 exams, among NWEAs, Science Augmentation and AP exams — all within a three-week period in May, she explained. If the NWEA were not required, the student could focus on the upcoming AP exams.

“We want these kids to do well on the most significant test they’ll take in their lives,” Ross said.