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Helena High sophomore Tara Harrington works on a lab project Wednesday in AP biology class

Helena High sophomore Tara Harrington works on a lab project Wednesday in AP biology class at the high school. Helena's school district was one of 373 in the United States and Canada that received the AP District Honor Roll award, and one of only two districts in Montana to receive the honor.

Helena's public high schools have again received accolades for their advanced placement class program by the AP College Board.

The AP District Honor Roll award is given to districts that simultaneously increase access to AP courses for more students and maintain or improved the rate that AP students earn scores of 3 or higher on an AP exam.

In the 2017-18 school year, Helena High had 27 enrolled AP scholars, 10 AP scholars with honors and 12 students recognized as AP scholars with distinction. Capital High shared similar numbers with 36 enrolled AP scholars, nine AP scholars with honors, 15 AP scholars with distinction and one national AP scholar. 

These categories represent scores at or above a 3.0, 3.25, 3.5 and 4.0 on AP exams, respectively. These scores must be maintained across multiple exams to qualify. National AP scholar is one of the college's highest honors. 

The school district was one of 373 in the United States and Canada that received the AP District Honor Roll award, and one of only two districts in Montana to receive the honor. The other was Frenchtown School District.

As Helena continues to improve its AP offerings, this occasion marks the sixth time the district has received this honor. 

“There are not a lot of national benchmarks in education, so it can be hard to understand how we are performing nationally and internationally,” said Tyler Ream, district superintendent. “This designation provides important insight in that regard and should be a significant point of pride for our students, educators and community.”

Capital High School Principal Brett Zanto said the designation reflects the hard work of both students and staff.

The district offers a variety of options to students between its AP courses and dual-credit opportunities. These opportunities allow students to get a head start on earning college credits while in high school. 

“We have strategically and continually enhanced our AP offerings, and I’m thankful for staff who are not only willing to teach AP courses, but also for the support and encouragement they provide our students who are taking on the more rigorous opportunities,” Zanto said.

Helena High School Principal Steve Thennis said his school’s passing rates exceed the state, national and international levels across the board.

“A strong array of AP courses allows our students to compete with the best and brightest from anywhere in the world,” Thennis said. "The coursework offered at Helena High allows for a quality college-prep experience that helps students be prepared for success beyond the doors of the high school."

“This is truly a community recognition,” Thennis said. “Starting of course with our kids’ willingness to strive to do their best. Our parents that have obviously instilled this love of learning from an early age and the teachers across the K-12 spectrum that have served to mentor and challenge students to rigorous heights.”

Thennis said AP courses continue to be open to any student interested in the challenge.

Capital High staff also encourages students to take on this challenge.

“We continually stress the importance of students challenging themselves with higher levels of learning,” Zanto said. “These opportunities are helping to prepare our students for the increased challenges that they will face in the post-secondary world."

Helena High offers 14 AP courses, and Capital High offers 13 AP courses. Both schools feature many AP courses in core subjects such as English or biology.

At the start of the 2018-19 school year, Helena High School added new AP environmental science and AP seminar courses. Capital High added AP physics and AP human geography. 

Ream said both schools are looking to add additional courses next fall. Helena High hopes to add AP chemistry, AP research and AP Spanish. Capital High looks to add AP statistics and AP computer science. 

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