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The Student Newspaper of MAST Academy, since 1991.
The Student News Site of MAST Academy

The Beacon

The Beacon

MAST Academy’s AP and Cambridge passing rates soar

Last July, the big day rolled around, and testing scores were released. Being the first year of total in-person learning since the pandemic, schools experienced a skyrocket in Advanced Placement and Cambridge exam scores. MAST Academy’s passing rates increased immensely, rising in almost all AP and Cambridge classes school-wide. Although this may be amazing for the reputation of MAST Academy’s staff and students, the question is, why exactly did these scores increase?

The end of the pandemic seemed to cause a motivational change among many students. The struggle of students’ mental health, primarily caused by virtual learning and quarantine during the pandemic, caused students to lose sight of their academic goals and abandon their studies. Being in a classroom, interacting with other people, and transitioning back into reality improved testing scores immensely.

“Paying attention in class helped me achieve the scores I received, and during virtual learning, it is hard to pay attention in class through a screen. During virtual learning, it is more difficult to communicate with teachers and ask them questions.” 10th grader Rebecca Leitman said, accrediting her excellent “5” scores in AP Spanish Language and AP Human Geography to face-to-face learning.

MAST Academy AP Passing Rates from 2020-2021 to 2021-2022. Data provided by Ms. Melissa Fernandez.

Additionally, being in front of a screen all day during online schooling did not only put a toll on the mental health of students. The lack of integrity that developed within the virtual classroom due to constant cheating and technology usage caused students to learn less, read less, and ultimately shorten their attention span. 

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“We live in a world where it’s instant gratification, reading is the exact opposite. Reading is delayed gratification, it’s more personal, it’s more real, and you can sit down and shut your mind off and get engrossed and lose yourself in this suspension of disbelief.” AS- Level English Language teacher Ms. Peters said. Peters, who has a  91-percent passing rate, stresses reading and stretching attention spans as the keys to doing well in the AS-Level English Language exam.

“One thing the pandemic did is the attention span of students went down a bit because we were just so overstimulated with information, and hopefully confined to our homes, that it was just information overload,” Peters said. “We were doing everything to trick our brains that we were in a normal moment.”

After a year and a half of many students being away from the halls of MAST Academy, a number of them came back with a newfound sense of responsibility, an improved state of mind, and drive for their studies, as well as the benefit of being able to have one-on-one classroom time with their teachers. In fact, some teachers believe their students came back to school with a new idea of academic ambition after enduring the struggles of learning virtually.

“This was the first year we actually tested since the pandemic and I thought the scores were going to be a bit low considering they haven’t tested before and most of them were on virtual, but to my surprise, they did wonderfully,” 11th and 12th grade AS- and A-Level US History teacher Ms. Sardiñas said. with a passing rate of 91 percent,

“I think students and young people are very resilient and they quickly bounce back,” Sardiñas, who had a passing rate of 91 percent, added. “I think it’s also attributed to their passion for learning and wanting to get ahead.”

Many teachers also believe that their own influence in the physical classroom has a large effect on these scores. AS- and A-Level Biology teacher Mr. Perez, with a passing rate of around 83 percent, likes to emphasize the Cambridge vocabulary in preparation for these exams, and some even like to remind students about the advantages of high AP exam scores in higher learning for motivation. 

MAST Academy Cambridge Passing Rates, A and AS Level, from 2020-2021 to 2021-2022. Cambridge exams were "center graded" for 2020-2021. In both years, data includes students who took the exams, whether they took the course or not. Data provided by Ms. Melissa Fernandez.

“For them, if they can pass the exam, it’s a scholarship, it’s free credits for most kids.” AP European History, AP United States Government and Politics, and AP Macroeconomics teacher Mr. Raymond said. “We all know how expensive college has become. The exams can help them save money, they can help them save time, and they’re gonna lighten their workload which is crucial because college is so much more work than high school is.”

Likewise, these fluctuations in testing scores over the course of the pandemic really revealed how much teachers do care about their student’s success and the burden they had to carry as scores may have dropped during virtual learning. 

“I take it personally if they don’t do well.” said AP Physics C: Mechanics and AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism teacher Dr. Hood said. “If they don’t do well, I blame myself. If they do well, I go ‘Good for you, you did it!’ Teachers tend to be like that, we give them all the credit if they do well and if they don’t, we blame ourselves.” 

Overall, MAST Academy’s high AP and Cambridge passing rates really are the consequences of shifting away from an academic environment of Zoom and Microsoft Teams meetings and into a learning environment of strong communication, collaborative work, and students and teachers rediscovering their passion for teaching and learning again.

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MAST Academy’s AP and Cambridge passing rates soar