FRENCH SETTLEMENT -- A national initiative has stretched to French Settlement.

French Settlement High School administrators announced this week that the school has entered into a three-year partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), sponsored in Louisiana by Exxon-Mobil.

The NMSI grant will be worth $200,000 through the 2020-21 school year and will cover costs for the expansion of the school’s Advanced Placement (AP) courses, professional development, student study sessions, teaching materials, and awards for students based on test scores, FSHS Principal Lee Hawkins said.

On Friday, Hawkins and other FSHS administrators presented a giant check to its AP students, who all signed a poster that read, “I took the AP challenge,” to commemorate the program.

French Settlement High is the sixth school in Livingston Parish chosen for the NSMI program, joining Albany High, Denham Springs High, Live Oak High, Springfield High and Walker High. Hawkins said he was told his school is the smallest to be selected, with roughly 300 students.

Through this partnership, French Settlement High will over time be able to increase the number of students taking and earning qualifying scores on AP math, science, computer science, and English exams.

AP courses are college-level classes offered at high schools. End-of-year tests are graded on a scale of 1-5, and students who earn a 3 or better can qualify for credit at colleges across the nation.

This year, Hawkins said French Settlement High added AP courses in English literature, English language, computer science and environmental science, with 90 students — or one-third of the student body — signing up. There are plans to add an AP math course in the 2019-20 school year, most likely calculus or statistics, Hawkins said.

“This [NMSI grant] just gives us a chance to offer more to our students and prepare them better for college,” Hawkins said.

The NMSI program was founded in 2007 when ExxonMobil invested $125 million, along with the O’Donnell Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Michael and Susan Dell Foundation.

The nonprofit NMSI works to expand access to challenging coursework and improve student achievement. It works with schools and school districts to provide training and support for teachers and provide the resources to students to develop their knowledge and skills.

The grant FSHS and other schools have received pays 50 percent of AP exam fees and covers training costs for teachers during the summer and school year through the College Readiness Program. It also provides money for teachers to use in their classrooms, and students who earn a score of 3, 4, or 5 on AP exams will receive $100.

Students must attend three Saturday study sessions per subject throughout the school year, giving them an additional 12 hours of structured learning. These sessions are led by national AP experts, and AP teachers must accompany their students.

Jill Dupuy, the school’s administrative assistant, called these study sessions “invaluable to the success of the program” because they give students a chance to network with students taking similar classes at other schools.

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