School starts in Sioux Falls on Tuesday, September 5. Two years ago, 52% of Sioux Falls voters approved pushing that start date to the day after Labor Day, the way God, if there were one, would intend. Some students and parents expressed concern that the later start date would hurt student performance on Advanced Placement tests by cutting their August prep time.
Those concerns didn’t pan out last year, and they didn’t pan out this year. According to data presented to the Sioux Falls school board by superintendent Brian Maher Monday, more Sioux Falls students took AP exams in the 2016–2017 school year, and Sioux Falls students’s AP pass rate beat the state average.
In the last year of the August start date, the Sioux Falls AP pass rate was 67.0%. In the first year of the September start date, the pass rate rose to 70.6%. In the second year of the September start date, with a three-year surge in number AP tests taken, the pass rate rose to 71.5%, compared to a statewide rate of 70% and a nationwide rate of 60%.
The report also notes that the Sioux Falls School District gives its high schools extra money for getting students to take and pass AP tests. Each building gets $65 per student who passes an AP exam. That’s $113,360 for the school year just ended.
I won’t claim that starting school later improves AP test scores. But two years of rising AP scores in Sioux Falls show that students are able to perform just as well on AP exams whether we drag them back to school in August or let them finish summer right and return to the classroom in September.