By Denise Dick
Twelve seniors sit in a third-floor classroom at Ursuline High School discussing literature.
They’re enrolled in the school’s advanced placement English Literature and Composition class, and they’re talking about the four books they read over the summer for the class.
The English class is one of nine AP classes offered at Ursuline — the most of any Mahoning Valley school. Biology, calculus, chemistry, French, Spanish, U.S. history, U.S. government and psychology are the others.
Christina Eusanio of Youngstown and Daniel McClurkin of Girard are among the students. Daniel is taking five AP classes this year and took three as a junior. Christina enrolled in six AP classes this year and three last year.
They’re not easy.
Daniel said the classes demand more critical thinking.
“The tests are definitely a lot harder, and there’s more homework,” Christina said.
Students who take the classes and then pass the AP tests may earn college credit and/or test out of a college course.
“Even if they don’t take the test — for whatever reason — it’s great preparation for college,” said Matt Sammartino, assistant principal.
Both he and Principal Patricia Fleming teach AP courses. He teaches government and she, English literature and composition.
“We had one student last year who took all of the AP classes and scored fives on all of them,” Fleming said. “With all of those courses, we figured he could of gotten 30 college credits. That’s almost a full year.”
How colleges and universities calculate and transfer credits from AP courses varies by each institution.
“It could allow a student to graduate in 31/2 years as opposed to four, or four years as opposed to five,” the principal said.
Though Daniel and Christina say college credit is appealing, it isn’t their main motivator in taking the advanced classes.
“I’m in school to learn,” Daniel said. “AP and honors classes are the best Ursuline has to offer in terms of classes.”
Christina too says she likes a challenge.
While neither student knows yet where they will attend college next year, Christina plans to be an engineer, and Daniel wants to be a college English professor.
Last year’s Ursuline graduates took 81 AP courses. Many of those students were enrolled in more than one of the classes.
To qualify for the classes, Ursuline students must pass prerequisite honors courses. It’s possible to take general courses and then AP with high grades and a teacher’s recommendation.
The school started offering the classes in 1993 with English literature and calculus. It’s been on the rise since. Ursuline teachers are exploring offering art and art history in the future.
Ursuline parents want their children to attend well-rated schools, both Sammartino and Fleming said.
Mostly, those schools expect students to challenge themselves in classes such as advanced placement, Sammartino said.
He and Fleming both said they’ve heard from alumni who have taken the classes about how the AP prepared them for college work, allowed them to skip over general college classes or earn college credit.
Ursuline students who have taken AP courses have attended Harvard, Georgetown, Notre Dame and Youngstown State University’s Honors College.
The school boasts 100 percent pass rates in AP English literature and composition, French language and culture and U.S. history, with an 82 percent overall pass rate in all AP tests by Ursuline students.
That compares with a 67 percent pass rate in Ohio and 62 percent worldwide.