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CHS students go 13-for-13 on placement test

By Ryan Butler

On the morning of May 17, moments before the most important test of her life, Kyra Telgen cried. 


“I wanted to make a (top score) so badly,” Telgen said.  “I just wanted to prove that I could do it.”

She cried again during the test. She cried again after. She cried the next day. She wasn’t the only one. 

Several of her classmates also teared up because of the Advanced Placement World History exam. This was the exam Telgen and 11 of her Chiefland High School classmates had spent hours each day studying for, pulled all-nighters for, cried for. 

It was the legendarily difficult exam that every participating CHS student passed — easily.  

Facing an exam boasting a fail rate above 50 percent, Chris Wilson’s AP World History Class went 13-for-13 in passing scores, including all 12 students and the class’ teacher assistant. 

“If this was a football team, they'd have a parade,” Wilson said. “Now I understand it isn't as important to the average person, but 100 percent pass rate on an AP test is almost unheard of.”

The amazing results capped off a year of the most difficult academic work in the students’ lives and provided the high-water mark for the school’s growing advance placement program.


Long days, long nights

More so than anything else, the sheer amount of information in the class makes AP World History a daunting challenge. The text book features 36 chapters, beginning with 12,000 B.C. and ending in modern times. The class, which last year included one freshman, four sophomores, seven juniors and one senior, required students to know subjects as wide-ranging as ancient Egypt to Chinese dynasties to South American revolutions to the Cold War. 

To prepare his class, Wilson had each student produce a review of the previous chapter by Monday morning of every week. Most of these assignments took up six to seven pages of typed notes. Most of the students pulled several all-nighters because of them.

“It’s basically Satan in homework form,” said Jenny Caudill, one of the CHS students to take the class. 

With the test approaching during the spring semester, the workload increased. Students formed text message groups to aid and encourage each other. Wilson, a former CHS basketball coach, stressed “practice” or extracurricular preparation. After-school study times began once a week in February. That became several times a week until the two weeks before the test, when students were staying as late as 5 p.m. every day after school. 

“That’s been my own success. I told them right from the get-go that if we work hard and do what we’re supposed to do well succeed,” Wilson said. “People tell me 'you have such tremendous success' and I'm like it's because we put in the hours. I demand that that's what we’re going to do. The first year they don't do that we're going to see our scores drop.”

All this is taught at a college-based reading and knowledge level. The reward is college-credit, but it’s rewarded only based on the results of the final exam. 

“There is a pressure to it,” Wilson said. “I make them do a lot of work. All the AP teachers do and you have one morning to perform. If you have a bad day it's all out the window.”

The test is broken into 70 multiple choice questions in 55 minutes. Then there are three essays all within a 130-minute time limit.

“That morning I knew we were really like a family because we were praying and crying and we said ‘stop, you know you’re going to pass’. That’s the moment when you knew it was more than just about the test,” said Kyatia Grimes

Over three hours and countless tears later, the test was finished. But the long wait began. Scores didn’t come out for nearly two months. The long wait, along with the comparative ease of the test to the arduous work of the prior months, also concerned students.

“Some of us freaked out and were afraid we didn’t pass because we thought there was no way the test could have been that easy,” Grimes said. 

Wilson meanwhile said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the test results. 

“I knew nine or 10 (passing scores) were a real possibility. I knew if we got the right questions we could go off. When they came back in and started talking about it I kind of thought we had done ok.”

Wilson found out the scores while coaching his daughter’s softball team at a tournament in Ocala. 

“I ran through the outfield and everybody was looking at me. But it was worth it. I may look back in five years and say this is my state championship team.”

Wilson said he got about 100 text messages in the next 10 minutes. In addition to perfect passing scores, his class had three of the students, including Telgen, score the highest possible result of a ‘5’, a mark only six percent of students receive. 

“When I got the stats back we blew everything out of the water,” Wilson said. “They averaged 10 multiple questions more than the national average. On every essay we destroyed the national average.”

“We learned so much more than the tests showed us,” Ansley Pentz said.“If they had really sat down at our class we would have made 100s on a scale of 1 to 5.”

School-wide success

The AP program has only been around a few years at CHS but already the school is seeing great success. Seven of 10 test-takers passed AP World History two years ago after seven out of 18 passed in the year before. This year the school also offers AP classes in Geography, Literature, Language, Environmental Science and, for the first time, Psychology. 

Former assistant principal and current principal Matt McLelland helped bring about the AP program to the school. These upper-level classes are becoming more important in determining school grades from the state and for students seeking to pursue a college degree. 

Since implementing the program CHS has a strong 40 percent overall pass combined on all tests. While the school is looking to improve on an already solid number it is also looking to get more kids in the AP program. 

“There is a lot of work and I think people don't like to necessarily sign up for that sometimes," Wilson said. Even with the success of last year’s class, recognized by an assembly in the gymnasium last week where Wilson got his hair cut and dyed into a purple Mohawk, only eight students are in AP World History this year. 

Most students who do take AP classes sign up for others. Those students have found it worth the hard work and long hours.

“The study skills are going to help us in college but also in the real world. It makes us more well-rounded,” Pentz said. 

For Telgen, the freshman who cried for several days because of the penultimate test of her most difficult class, it was even more than that. 

“I didn’t feel close to anyone but by the end I feel that I’ve been closer with these 11 other people than I have been with most other people ever. You spend so much time with them and when you have the same goals and interests you begin to love everybody.”