When it comes to the Friars’ highest-achieving students, demand drives supply for course offerings.
By Mark Vruno
Robust Advanced Placement (AP) instruction at Fenwick High School in 2018-19 produced an astounding 121 AP Scholars last school year. The private (Catholic) school in Oak Park, IL, administered 843 AP tests in 26 subject areas. Presently, there are 131 students enrolled in AP Psychology, a new course offering, this school year.
“The AP program at Fenwick gives our students a clear advantage when they reach college,” asserts Principal Peter Groom. “In some cases, students benefit from the same type of rigor they will see in their college classes. In other cases, students earn college credit, which enables them to focus on upper-level classes at the collegiate level,” Mr. Groom notes. “The wide range of options our students can explore while at Fenwick clearly benefits them.”
Last school year, nearly one in 10 of Fenwick’s students was recognized as an AP Scholar at one of these levels:
- 49 Friars were named AP Scholars, a distinction granted to students who receive scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP Exams.
- 17 students were named AP Scholars with Honors, which means they received an average score of at least 3.25 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on four or more of these exams.
- 44 students were named AP Scholars with Distinction. They received an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of these tests.
- 11 students were named National AP Scholars for receiving an average score of at least 4 on all AP Exams taken and scores of 4 or higher on eight or more exams.
“Our AP classes don’t just prepare students for the exam,” explains Assistant Principal Laura Pendleton, who directs Fenwick’s Advanced Placement Program. “They are true, college-level courses taught by some of our most talented, dedicated and passionate teachers. Students in these classes consistently attend top universities and then come back and tell us how well they were prepared to work at that level.”
As a testament to Ms. Pendleton’s statement about collegiate preparation, young alumnus Spencer Gallagher ’19 proclaims: “The AP classes I took at Fenwick have been absolutely essential to my success so far at the University of Illinois. The courses prepared me a great amount for the AP tests, helping me to test out of many classes, and helped me to develop study habits that have proven invaluable so far,” notes the Illini freshman, who grew up in Elmhurst and attended Visitation Catholic School. “Many of the classes I am taking right now are easy compared to the challenges presented by classes like AP Physics C and AP Chemistry.”
As a junior two years ago, Gallagher was one of seven Fenwick students to score the maximum of 36 on the American College Test (ACT); he is the Class of 2019’s salutatorian. “Fenwick really does have incredible teachers,” Gallagher adds, “who help their students through very difficult STEM classes and [help] prepare them for college. Even my classes not taught by AP teachers, especially my senior English class …, have helped me a ton with my writing and prepared me for the rigor of college.”
Freshmen in AP
Even students as young as 14 years old can get into the AP act at Fenwick. Right now, 31 freshmen are enrolled in AP Biology. That number represents more than 10% of the Class of 2023. Throughout the school year, these students are performing labs on plants that they have grown. “They are growing two types of plants: mung beans and black-eyed peas,” explains Science Teacher Amy Christophell ’06, who also also coaches Fenwick’s WYSE Biology Team. “They are responsible for caring for their plants throughout the year,” she explains.
The first lab that they performed was on the seeds before they were planted. “They massed out 100 beans to practice with calculating a mean, a standard deviation and standard error,” Ms. Christophell adds. “They also use the masses to determine whether their data formed a normal distribution. The second lab has students using artificial selection, planting the smallest beans and largest beans by mass. They then came up with their own procedures to determine how the growth was different between the two sized seeds, Christophell says.
What Is the Advanced Placement Program?
The Advanced Placement (AP®) Program, sponsored by the College Board and administered by Educational Testing Service, offers secondary school students the opportunity to participate in challenging college-level course work while still in high school. Students can receive credit, advanced placement or both from more than 4,200 colleges and universities that participate in the AP Program. Fenwick administered examinations in 26 subject areas in the 2018–2019 school year. The average AP exam consists of a multiple-choice and a free-response section. Most exams are three hours long and cover two semesters of college-level work; those that test one semester of work are generally two hours long.
Fenwick Honors & AP Courses by Department (2019-20)
- English (Mr. Schoeph)
- Fine Arts (Ms. Capito)
- Foreign Languages (Mrs. Carraher)
- Mathematics (Mr. Finnell)
- Science (Mr. McKinley)
- Social Sciences (Mr. Richied)
For a complete class list and course requirements across all departments, see the Course Selection Guide.