Tolman High School students score gains on AP tests

Tolman High School students score gains on AP tests

PAWTUCKET - The news keeps getting better for Tolman High School, where administrators say students are showing once again just how far they've progressed. Principal Chris Savastano told The Breeze that Tolman received some "great news" this month on its Advanced Placement exam results.

In 2011, only four out of 15 Tolman students achieved a passing score, a 3, 4 or 5, on just 16 AP exams, said Savastano. In May of this year, 35 out of 94 juniors and seniors who took a combined 186 AP exams scored a passing grade for college credit on at least one exam.

"This is an incredible achievement considering that the AP examinations are nationally normed and scored assessments that represent the highest rigor for a high school student," said Savastano.

Of the 186 AP exams taken this year, another 50 achieved a "2" score, said Savastano, meaning students who took the exams were "almost there." After marginal improvements in 2012 and 2013, the 2014 results represent a significant improvement for the school, he said.

The improvement on AP scores follows up news in the spring that Tolman was showing significant improvements on the New England Common Assessment Program tests. That followed the news over the winter that the school had boosted its graduation rate from 57 percent to 71 percent in four years.

Savastano said that if he "had to put a finger on the reasons" for the improvements on the AP exams, it would come down to two factors:

* The "improved culture in the building" and "receptive attitude" to higher standards. Students are feeling more enabled to challenge themselves to take tougher classes and shoot for higher goals, he said.

* And more "rigorous instruction" by teachers, who are setting higher expectations.

"We're developing a culture where kids want to challenge themselves," said Savastano.

Tolman still has a long way to go on its AP results, said the Tolman principal. The state average for students passing AP exams is 65 percent, meaning the school is "still at half of the state average," but he said the number of "2" scores this year could predict more significant improvement next year.

There is no question that students at Tolman are "thinking more about college" than they have in a long time, said Savastano, and he has no doubt that the upward trend will continue over the next few years.