Hamilton High School’s Advanced Placement Program in Chandler is the best in the state according to the Siemens Foundation, a national organization that provides college scholarships.
The foundation gives the honor and a $1,000 grant each year to one high school in each state based on performance in math and science and commitment to students.
Hamilton administrators received notice of its selection at the end of March.
Assistant principal Chris Farabee wrote in the application that the school’s program has flourished over the past five years.
“Only 13 students took AP math and science tests in 2000 while more than 180 took the same exams in 2005,” he wrote.
Reya Das, the school’s 2006 valedictorian, said Advanced Placement courses have helped her get ahead and prepare for college. She’s taking six Advanced Placement courses this year — including the highest level of calculus offered in high school.
“I want to prepare myself for college and gain as much knowledge as I can while it’s free,” the 17-year-old said with a smile.
Das hasn’t decided if she’s going to attend Dartmouth College or Arizona State University. Either way, she’ll be entering college next year with about 60 college credits.
The situation is not uncommon for the school’s top students, Farabee said. Students can take the Advanced Placement class just for high school credit or pay a fee to take a final exam for college credit as well.
Rigor is another reason students say they take the classes.
“They are a lot more challenging,” said Michael Veto, 18. “You’re in an atmosphere with students with a commitment to learn.”
Other areas the foundation looked at included activities outside class to further science and math education, and what the school is doing to motivate students to take Advanced Placement courses.
Farabee said Hamilton also focuses on having equal representation of all ethnicities in the courses and identifies students in the school who just need to be challenged more.
Hamilton plans to use its grant to help students in the program who can’t afford to pay for the test at the end of the class and to purchase additional course materials.