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Bedford looks to raise bar at high school

BEDFORD - The school board is looking to increase Bedford High students' participation in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams. The move comes after voters passed a special warrant article March 12 calling for doubling the number of students taking and passing the tests.

"I think the community has asked for a substantial numerical goal to be set," the warrant article's author, Richard Evans, told members of the school board Monday night. "I anticipate this will take a number of years, but if we're going to have kids passing AP calculus, then they're going to need to be able to do quadratic equations in the ninth grade."

The original language in Evans' non-binding article called for 650 passes annually in AP or IB exams. But a motion made at the school deliberative session reduced that number to 325 passes. Still, the last sentence of the warrant article effectively called for doubling the pass rate

For Evans, the results of the vote - 1,534 in favor to 1,176 against - was a clear signal from the public that Bedford residents want stiffer graduation requirements for their best students.

In 2012, 321 AP/IB exams were passed by students enrolled in AP or IB courses. Evans said he's confident that number can be doubled if the school district makes the effort to increase participation in the exams.

School board member Bill Foote agreed with Evans that the results of the March 12 vote showed a consensus on this issue.

"We've been clearly directed by the voters to create a program that comes up with that result," Foote said.

Board member Scott Earnshaw said increasing performance on the tests means first increasing participation.

"That's the real question for the school department," he said. "How do we go out there and increase the number of students who take those advanced tests?"

"This is one of many goals," said board member Don Graff. "I think we as a board have talked a lot about measureables, taking into account high performers and special education. I think we need to devote substantial time to this topic. Not just the warrant article, but also the metrics."

School Superintendent Tim Mayes suggested this could be a topic of discussion at either the school board's spring or summer retreat.

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