To the Editor:

The quality of our children’s education has been receiving a great deal of scrutiny lately. This can be seen at the national level with the fractious debate about the Common Core standards or locally here in Milford where CMT/CAPT test scores are down (along with all of Connecticut) and graduation and college admission rates are not where they should be.

The status of Milford schools received renewed focus at the recent mayoral debate where both current Mayor Ben Blake and challenger Peter Spalthoff listed schools as the key priority for Milford’s improvement.

Amongst all this educational disquiet, however, some really positive news has gone mostly unnoticed. Milford’s high schools have had a tremendous expansion in the number of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes and tests. Below are some of the specifics: 475 high school students took an AP course in 2013, a 57% increase over 2012 and 62% higher than the goal set for the school district by the Board of Education.

A total of 825 AP tests were taken in 2013, an increase of 67% over 2012. Foran High School had a 61% increase and Jonathan Law had a 73% increase; 510 AP test scores were 3 or higher, an increase of 47% compared to 2012.

The number of AP “Scholars” increased 26% (96 in 2013 compared to 77 in 2012). An AP Scholar is someone who, at a minimum, has scored 3 or higher on 3 AP tests. Milford’s EER ratio, which is the standard “apples-to-apples” method to compare AP results across school districts and across time, increased 25% compared to 2012.

Milford’s scores are now slightly higher than the Connecticut state average and substantially above the U.S. average.

Milford’s schools are not resting on their AP laurels. In the current school year, over 1,100 AP tests are expected to be taken; a 30+% increase over the already-impressive 2013 levels. While this will stretch capacity, it is being proactively planned for, including higher levels of professional development for AP teachers.

I had the privilege of attending the Sept. 9 Board of Education meeting where these results were communicated. Also attending were AP Scholars from both Foran and Jonathan Law high schools. These students were a very impressive group and demonstrate the quality of education they have received.

Also in attendance at this meeting were AP teachers who spoke about the positive benefits of taking AP classes above and beyond the actual score received in the year-end test. They spoke about the organization skills and confidence that students develop through the AP process. Their comments mirror studies that show a positive correlation between students taking AP courses and ultimate college success.

Milford’s parents and taxpayers are rightfully concerned that standardized test scores and other objective metrics have plateaued or are down. These areas deserve scrutiny and a time-sensitive action plan. However, we should also take a moment to celebrate when good things happen. Milford’s AP scores are one of these good things.

Mark Ahrens

School board candidate