One of the most common ways that people judge the strength of any school is by looking at their standardized test scores. Because St. Francis is a Progressive school, we choose not to publish our standardized test scores because scores alone are neither an effective or helpful way to measure the overall strength of a school nor the full abilities of its students. Research indicates that the two factors most highly correlated with standardized test scores are the income level and educational level of the parents. Therefore, most private schools, as well as public schools in wealthier districts, have high standardized test scores. Certainly this the case for St. Francis. However, because we don’t publish our scores, coupled with the fact that St. Francis students are generally so happy, people wonder if what we are doing really “works.”
I can assure you what we do in our classrooms works. And there is one type of standardized test score that we do publish because both the school’s teaching and the students’ efforts play significant roles in these scores: Advanced Placement (AP) exam scores. AP courses are overseen by the College Board (the same organization that administers the PSAT and SAT). AP teachers submit syllabi to the College Board each year, and the School also sends faculty to an intensive AP Institute for each subject before they teach that course. St. Francis offers the following AP classes regularly: English Literature, US History, European History, Calculus AB and BC, Statistics, Computer Science Principles, Biology, Environmental Science, Chemistry, Physics C: Mechanics, Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature, French Language (the College Board no longer offers the French Literature course/exam), and Chinese Language. In addition, teachers regularly offer extra help for students interested in preparing for the following exams, although we do not offer the official courses: English Language (juniors in English III), World History (sophomores in Culture and Civilization: Medieval); and Physics 1 and/or 2 (freshman or others in Conceptual Physics).
AP scores range from 1-5, with 5 being the highest, and 3 being the level at which many colleges either give college credit or allow students to pass out of a requirement and into a higher-level class. Overall, the percentage of our students who scored a 3 or higher is consistently higher than the national average. This year, 74% of our students scored a 3 or higher on the 128 total exams St. Francis Students took. This is particularly impressive because 72% of our seniors took at least one exam. This percentage is extremely high compared to most schools that offer AP courses. Many schools deliberately limit which students can take AP classes, with only the very strongest students being allowed to take the courses or exams, which may inflate AP pass rates at these schools. At St. Francis, however, students have the freedom to try an AP class if they are willing to put in the work and to fully demonstrate the effort these classes require of them.
For a broader perspective, 73% of our students scored a 3 or higher over the last five years of AP exams, and an average of 71% of all of our graduates have taken at least one test over the last five years. The Class of 2020 is a very strong class. 76% of this class will have taken at least one AP test by the time they graduate. Over the last five years, some classes have had particularly high percentages of students scoring a 3 or higher, including the following with 67% or more scoring 3 or higher: Biology, Calculus AB, Calculus BC, English Language, English Literature, European History, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature, Physics C: Mechanics, World History, and US History. Two especially impressive statistics: 100% of students who have taken an AP Spanish exam in at least the last 10 years have scored 3 or higher; and 100% of the 23 SFS students who have taken Physics C: Mechanics in the last three years have scored 3 or higher.
For your comparison, here are the global percentages of students scoring 3 or higher compared to the SFS percentage in a sampling of subjects in the spring of 2019:
|Physics C Mechanics||82%||100%|
|World History *||55%||75%|
*We don’t teach these courses, separately, but faculty help students prepare for the exam if they wish.
I share these scores as additional evidence of the outstanding quality of a St. Francis education. An objective national yardstick can be a helpful measure for those less familiar with the strength of our academics and our philosophy. Our graduates are well aware of the rigor of a St. Francis education, though, because when they get to college, they readily see how well prepared they are compared to their peers who attended other high schools. They consistently share their gratitude with us when they come home from college to visit. And they continue to talk about the School’s academic strengths years later, often professing their St. Francis education to have been the most powerful part of their education, even compared to college and graduate school. This was once again the case at our Reunions in September over the weekend of the Fall Sports Picnic.