About 1,900 Gwinnett students get AP awards

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Nearly 1,900 Gwinnett County Public Schools students received awards this year honoring their success on Advanced Placement exams, school system officials announced Tuesday.

Out of the 322,615 AP Scholar awards presented to students around the world, 1,992 were earned by 1,883 students in Georgia's largest school district. The awards were given to students based on their performance on AP exams taken through the 2008-09 school year.

The group of Gwinnett students is part of the top 17 percent of the 1.7 million students worldwide who took AP exams and performed at a sufficiently high level to earn an AP Scholar award, according to a news release.

"AP is likely the most rigorous curriculum that is available to high school students," Berkmar High School principal Ken Johnson said.

Students who do well on AP exams can potentially earn college credit for the courses, Johnson said. Every year, Berkmar students are able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars on college tuition because of the College Board's AP program.

Earning college credit isn't the only potential benefit of the AP program, Johnson said. In the classes, students learn valuable skills such as critical thinking and document-based writing.

"Particularly for schools like Berkmar -- very diverse schools -- AP is about proving to kids that they can do the high-level work," Johnson said. "Once kids realize they can perform at very high levels, we get a lot out of them."

The only ninth-grade student in Georgia to earn an AP Scholar award was Berkmar student Elvira Salgado, Johnson said. She's now a sophomore.

AP exams are graded on a scale of 1 to 5, and to pass, students must receive a score of at least 3.

The College Board recognizes the following levels of achievement with AP Scholar awards:

* AP Scholar: Student completes at least three AP exams with grades of 3 or higher.

* AP Scholar with Honor: Student earns an average grade of at least 3.25 on all AP exams taken and posts scores of 3 or higher on at least four exams.

* AP Scholar with Distinction: Student earns an average grade of 3.5 on all AP exams taken and posts scores of 3 or higher on at least five exams.

* National AP Scholar: Student earns an average grade of 4 or higher on all AP exams taken and posts scores of 4 or higher on at least eight exams.

Because a student must first earn the AP Scholar with Distinction award before becoming a National AP Scholar, several students received multiple awards.

Students at other schools located in Gwinnett County also received AP Scholar awards. Students at Wesleyan School, a private school in Norcross, received a total of 36 awards.

Numbers from other schools were not immediately available Tuesday.