From the Argus Leader:
State aims to boost Advanced Placement class rolls
Report ranks S.D. 34th in participation
Education officials hope online classes and cash incentives will increase the number of South Dakota high schoolers who take college-level Advanced Placement classes. The state ranked 34th in a recent report on AP class participation. The College Board said 9.8 percent of South Dakota's 2008 graduates passed an end-of-year exam in at least one AP class. The national average was 15.2 percent. It's largely a function of the state's rural nature: Small schools don't have enough students to justify face-to-face AP courses. The Sioux Falls School District said its students accounted for 44 percent of the AP exams taken in the state two years ago. But the emergence of online AP instruction has the potential to improve participation, especially in rural areas. The Department of Education has been offering online AP classes since 2002. For every student who earns a C or better, the state covers the school's $300 fee. Sarah Carter, who leads AP efforts at the Department of Education, said students in urban as well as rural areas have taken advantage. Some Sioux Falls and Rapid City students find they don't have room in their schedule for an AP class, so they take it online. The AP options make high school more rigorous but also give students a head start at the next level because colleges award credit toward graduation for high exam scores. "Financially, they're already that many credits into their college career," Carter said. One program run by Northern State University pays sparsely populated schools for providing AP courses. Another one funded by a federal grant pays students for doing well on any of seven online AP classes. Learning Power, which is run by Rapid City's Technology and Innovation in Education, is in its second year. Students who pass the final exam are awarded $100, and another $100 goes to their online teachers and local mentors.