The assembly kicked off Peabody's second year participating in the Massachusetts Math + Science Initiative, a grant program overseen in Massachusetts by nonprofit Mass Insight Education.
The grant initiative works on a state level to expand Advanced Placement programs in schools as well as increase access students have in the high-achieving programs that offer college level instruction.
"They've embraced non-traditional AP students," said Elise M. Frengos, MMSI's English director "Right now AP is the middle class ticket to selective colleges," she said.
Massachusetts is one of six states in the nation sponsored by the selective National Math + Science Iniatiative grant, which is funded mainly by Exxon Mobil, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dell, said John Smolenski, director of advising for MMSI.
Nine Massachusetts schools received the grant during it's initial 2008-2009 school year, this expanded to 21 schools last year, when Peabody was included, Smolenski said. The number increased to 46 schools this year, he added.
MMSI data shows Peabody student enrollment in AP programs at 378 students this year compared with 284 students in the grant's initial year. This is increased from 99 students in AP classes before Peabody received the grant.
The number of Peabody students receiving scores qualifying them for college credits on AP exams also saw an impressive rise, form 37 people in 2008 to 134 last year, Smolenski said.
Peabody has offered AP classes for more than 30 years, according to Michalene Hague, Pabody High's English Department head. However, the grant allowed increased teacher training and the addition of AP environmental science, English composition, and physics classes, said Peabody Superintendent C. Milton Burnett.
After the rally at Peabody High, Burnett touted the synergy of schools and businesses that made the programs possible. He called the AP classes "an example of a tremendous business community - school partnership."
Students gathered at the assembly, as well as Peabody Mayor Michael Bonfanti and State Representative Joyce A. Spiliotis, cheered as MMSI officials and Peabody High Principal, Edward Sapienza, fired students up about the coming year.
Quoting Tom Hanks in the film "A League of Their Own," Sapienza challenged students on the difficulty level of the courses.
"It's supposed to be hard," he said. "If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it."