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AP Calculus Students Achieve Perfection—and Other Highlights from the 2016 AP Exams

TASIS math teacher Kerry Venchus in the classroom

Of the 11 TASIS students who took the Advanced Placement Calculus AB exam last spring, every single one received the highest possible score of 5. Congratulations to Hongrui Han '17, Vladlena Ivannikova '16, Jeremy Kopp '16, Kirill Krupenin '17, Adam Novak '17, Francesca Olcese '16, Anna Prokofieva '16, Zakaria Rostamitehrani '16, Marianne Tissot '16, Jonathan Xie '16, and Micol Zardi '16 for this remarkable feat.

The exceptional 2016 results build upon those of the previous two years, in which 20 Calculus students combined to post 15 5s and two 4s. We checked in with Mathematics teacher Kerry Venchus, who has been at TASIS since 2009 and has taught AP Calculus for the past three years, and asked her about these outstanding scores.

How did it feel to see this year's scores, and are you at all surprised that the results have been this good?

It felt wonderful to see the results because each of my students worked unbelievably hard the entire year. I am so proud of all of them, truly, but I'm not overly surprised by their scores. Each of them was determined to do his or her best. I just put the information out there for them, and they soaked it all up. Early on I told them I believed they were all capable of earning 5s. Not all of them believed me at first. I then asked them what their goal was. As a group they committed to striving for 5s, so we all worked together to make that a possibility. To get through the curriculum in time for the exam, I not only sent them required summer work, but also held extra classes several times after school on Fridays and practice exams on weekends in the spring. I recognized it was a lot, but the students made the commitment to come to these extra sessions. They also completed an enormous amount of work. I know I asked them to go above and beyond, but they never complained and always stepped up. It felt we were a team, with all of us committed to doing the best we could. It was wonderful to be a part of their success.

What are the keys to getting students to do so well on their AP exams?

I'm not sure I have the answer to this because there are a lot of moving parts. I will say that one major key for me is believing in my students and teaching them to believe in themselves. When they believe in themselves they are more likely to put in the necessary hard work. I also try to instill a tolerance for failure; failure is not only a part of life, but it can play a positive role in the learning process. It is important for students to learn resilience and that hard work and self-discipline will eventually lead to success. I think all of my students would agree I have high expectations (and I know some who would say they are too high), but I have found that students will usually reach those expectations and along the way they learn responsibility and accountability.

"I will say that one major key for me is believing in my students and teaching them to believe in themselves."
-Kerry Venchus

Another key, for me, is to avoid giving them all the answers. I believe students should be using the knowledge and skills they have to solve new-to-them problems, rather than me spoon feeding solutions to them. Through struggle, they can learn to deal with and overcome frustrations, and in the process develop perseverance and confidence in their own abilities. In my opinion, if we want young people to be prepared to solve the bigger problems of our world, we need to give them time and space to practice solving smaller ones.

Finally, I put a lot of emphasis on partner work in my classes. I feel it helps them develop crucial collaboration and communication skills. It's not enough for students to know an answer. I want them to know how to explain themselves and help others reach their potential.

Additional AP Highlights

Art Teacher Martyn Dukes in the Sahenk Arts Center

Aside from the exceptional work put forth by Calculus students, many other results from the 2016 Advanced Placement exams deserve recognition. (Note that all AP exams are scored from 1–5.)

  • TASIS students took a total of 135 exams, with 47 percent of the scores a 4 or above (up from 37 percent in 2015) and 24 percent of the scores a perfect 5 (up from 20 percent in 2015).

  • Students recorded even more 5s (33) than 4s (30).

  • Nineteen students qualified for AP Scholar Awards—up from 13 in 2015 and the most in at least the past six years. See the full list of recipients.

  • Of the nine students who took the Studio Art: 2-D Design Portfolio exam, six scored a 5 and three scored a 4. Congratulations to Kim Nelson for preparing her photography students so effectively.

    Advanced Placement Logo

  • Under the tutelage of Fine Arts Department Chair Martyn Dukes, seven students took the Studio Art: Drawing Portfolio exam and averaged 4.0.

  • Of the five students who took the AP French Language and Culture, AP Italian Language and Culture, and AP German Language and Culture exams, none scored below a 4. All students self-studied for these AP exams after building a strong foundation in other courses offered by the Modern Languages Department.

  • Two students took the challenging AP Calculus BC exam after working with Matt Knee, and they both earned a 4.

  • Steve Moon helped five students prepare for the AP Macroeconomics exams, and they averaged 3.6.

  • Ten students scored a 4 or 5 on the AP Microeconomics exam. They were taught by either Steve Moon or Keith Isza.

  • Twelve students took the AP English Literature and Composition exam and posted an average of 3.4. Credit English Department Chair Todd Matthew for preparing them well.

  • Nine of Zach Mulert’s AP United States History students took the corresponding AP exam and averaged 3.4.

  • Seven students took the AP Statistics exam and averaged 3.3. Dan Schwartz led them throughout the year.

  • Eric Walser guided five students to a 3.2 average on the AP Biology exam.

Click here to learn more about the differences between the International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement programs at TASIS and to read about results prior to 2016.

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