By Mitchell Alexander, Northside High School
Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which prepare high school students across the nation for college-level work, will face a challenge in our area in the upcoming school year.
Virginia Advanced Study Strategies (VASS), is a non-profit group that has provided support and financial compensation to Virginia students enrolled in AP classes since its inception in 2007. Roanoke County started receiving benefits in 2010.
However, the grant Roanoke County Public Schools has through the program will expire next year.
The VASS program places focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Traditionally, teachers of supported classes would receive money based on how well their students performed, and also training during the summer.
In addition, students would receive a 100 dollar check for each exam passed. VASS would provide weekend study sessions with a lunch for students along with equipment for labs, and pay half the cost of each AP test (89 dollars).
Now, students earn only 50 dollars per exam, the VASS sessions have been shortened to half-days and no lunch is provided.
Next year, when the grant has completely expired, there will be no monetary rewards and no remedial sessions.
However, the grant is less necessary now that the county’s AP program has, according to the Collegeboard, been established as a viable and successful initiative.
Roanoke County Public Schools has been included in the Collegeboard’s AP honor roll for the past 3 years by increasing access to AP programs while simultaneously increasing the percentage of students that perform well on the AP exam.
“I think that the VASS grant losing funds will really hurt scores and students will lose an incentive to do well,” said William Byrd Senior Adam Cline, who has taken multiple AP classes. “However, a poorly financed program with limited funds won’t do much good either.”