Grimsley Graduate Wins Car at Cool to Be Smart

Madeline Kirby thought she had her freshman year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill all planned out. Maddie, as she likes to be called, has her dorm and roommate all picked out, her bags are nearly packed, and she already knows what she's going to major in. Maddie will study chemistry, with the hopes of going on to study medicine - it's Maddie's goal to study oncology in honor of her little brother, a leukemia survivor. What she doesn't have planned, though, is where to park the brand new Scion tC that she won at the 2011 Rice Toyota Cool to Be Smart event on Sunday, July 31.

The Grimsley graduate passed seven Advanced Placement exams in order to qualify for the event, which is sponsored by businesses for Excellence in Education. Maddie begged her boss for time off from her waitressing job in order to attend and get the chance to win one of 70 Apple products, like iPods and iPads, and then try her luck at the main prize - the brand new car. Maddie had high hopes - until she turned the key and the alarm sounded, she'd been sharing a car with her mom.SchoolCenter Picture

Businesses for Excellence in Education is a frequent supporter of Guilford County Schools (GCS) programs, including Guilford Parent Academy and the district's annual Celebrating Excellence in Education event. The group has particularly been supportive of the district's efforts to encourage student participation in rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) classes. When budget cuts required the district to charge students for AP exam fees, Businesses for Excellence in Education committed funding for 25 percent of the cost. The group also stepped in to support Cool to Be Smart after GCS lost funding for the event in 2009 due to the difficult economic climate.

It was no easy feat for students to earn an invitation to the event. In its ninth year, Cool to Be Smart rewards students who challenged themselves by taking rigorous courses and passing nationally administered exams. To qualify, students had to earn a passing score on at least five AP or IB exams during high school. A passing score is three, four or five for AP and four through seven for IB.

This year's Cool to Be Smart attendees passed a total of 3,207 AP and IB exams during high school, topping last year's class by 106. While the requirement to attend Cool to Be Smart is passing five exams, 73 of the students passed an impressive 10 or more exams. Many of these students will earn class credit for their scores at the colleges and universities they attend this fall.

Overall in GCS, students performed better on AP exams this year. The passing rate rose to 54 percent, up 11 percentage points in the past five years. Underrepresented students are both participating and performing at a higher rate. African-American participation is up 10 percent and performance is up 27 percent since last year. Hispanic participation is up 10 percent while performance remained steady. Asian participation is up 8 percent and performance is up 9 percent. Overall participation for GCS remained about the same.