WAHS receives grant for college readiness courses

Muriel Alim, program director for the National Math and Science's College Readiness Program speaks at Williamsport high School during the presentation of a $1.2 million grant to the district.

Students in the advanced placement classes at the Williamsport Area High School were on hand Thursday morning to witness the district receiving a $1.2 million grant funded by the state to implement the National Math and Science’s College Readiness program. State Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, made the announcement of the school’s participation in the grant.

Speaking to the group at the presentation, Dr. Timothy Bowers, district superintendent said, “We, as administrators and teachers understand the challenges that await our students in today’s high tech and fast-paced world.” An understanding of math, science, engineering and technology are critical in the workforce.

“We have seen the results of NMSI’s college readiness program at other school districts. We are absolutely thrilled to bring this program to the Williamsport Area School District,” he said. “It’s really all about opportunity. This grant gives our students the opportunity to get involved with our AP courses. It prepares our teachers so they are ready to advance those and teach those AP courses. It also creates funding so that students don’t have to pay for that AP exam. All students will take the exam.”

Advanced placement, or AP, courses, gives students an advantage when they apply to colleges, according to Bowers. Many colleges will recognize those credits, and even if they don’t, it still gives the student the advantage because they have experienced a higher, college-type course.

“As far as careers, advanced courses often times give them that skill set that would lead straight into the workforce,” Bowers said.

There are about 30 schools in the state that NMSI supports.

“We are so excited to be partnering with Williamsport schools,” Muriel Alim, program manager of NMSI’s school program, said. She detailed how when she met with the school’s faculty and administrators she felt their goals and the goals of her organization were aligned.

“NMSI’s goal is to help support you students to be successful beyond the walls of Williamsport,” Alim said. “When I came and I talked to your administrators, that’s what I heard. They realized that there were certain things that the district wasn’t doing that they felt we could help support what they wanted to do.”

Alim spoke about the advanced placement courses and the exam, which students take in May. Students receive a score at that time which reflects college readiness.

“No matter what score you get, you will be better prepared for college than if you have not taken the course or have not taken the exam,” she said. She noted that the state’s schools supported by NMSI have a track record of success in respect to the exams.

She said the average increase over one year on the exams is seven percent.

“So, from year to year about seven percent of the students that take an AP exam get a qualifying score. NMSI schools get over 10 times that,” she said.

Nathan Pish, a statistics teacher in the AP program, said he felt the students would benefit from the partnership with NMSI in respect to access and achievement. He noted that when he graduated from the high school in 2004, there were only six AP classes and today that number has more than doubled.

“It is easy to comment on the benefits of students experiencing success in a rigorous course early in their high school career. This success sets students up to challenge themselves in other rigorous here at Williamsport High School and sets them up for success in their college courses. Colleges and employers also like to see students challenging themselves,” he added.

For his part in the process, Yaw said he feels his job as a legislator is to bring people together.

“When When NMSI contacted me and they said we’d like to talk to Williamsport High School about getting involved in this program who do we talk to,” he said. Knowing the people at the school helped him to bring them together with the people at NMSI.

“You can thank your administrators for having the foresight to say that this is a good program for our kids and it’s going to allow you to be really a step ahead of everybody else,” Yaw told the students.