Valley Stream North makes the grade, and then some


Three high school students from Valley Stream North High School achieved a rare feat by earning perfect scores on their Advanced Placement exams.

A.P. courses present students with a college-level curriculum, and the exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. Scoring a 5 is difficult enough, but receiving a perfect score is very rare. If that weren’t enough, this comes after two students in last year’s A.P. Seminar class at North High received perfect exam scores.

This year’s students are Evan Thomas, Giovanni Mascetti and Kira Sherman, all seniors who received perfect scores in the A.P. Capstone Research exam.

Last year’s students were Hannah Lee and Alain Deen, who are also now seniors.

The AP Capstone course is a two-year course with the first year being the seminar class and the second year being research. The Capstone class is a relatively new program started by the College Board. North High School implemented the course in September 2017, and Joe Powers and Nicole Ryan have served as co-teachers for the past six years.

“One of the things that are so exciting about this course is that you just have to motivate the kids, get them to be passionate, and find their interests,” Ryan said. “We guide them and motivate them. That’s what makes the program so amazing, is that they have so much academic freedom. They can study what they want, and they can do research.”

The statistics on the students’ perfect score achievement are rare. In 2021, over 46,840 students took the A.P. Seminar exam. Worldwide, there were only 33 students who had perfect scores, and two of them were from Valley Stream North.

On the A.P. Research, the three perfect scores from North High School were among 306 in the entire world.

“We’re talking about astronomical ability,” said Powers. “I was lucky enough to get not just one, but five over two years. I was probably one of the luckiest teachers in the world. I get to work with these wonderful kids, and we seem to be on to something in terms of whatever our process is.”

Ryan is amazed by his students’ perfection.“Getting a five is very difficult, and then to have two out of 33 kids get a perfect five is crazy,” said Ryan. “Then to find the following year, we got three students with perfect fives in A.P. Research. It’s really exciting.”

Within the Seminar course, the amount of kids that score a perfect five is 0.06 percent in the world, in Research; it is 1.14 percent out of 26,947 tests worldwide.

A.P. Seminar an Research allow students to explore their own research topics. “They’re empowered to do what interests them,” Powers said. “We give them the tools to research a topic of their interest and start now exploring different avenues. We do humanities papers and science-based papers. Sometimes humanities and science overlap. We do social papers, political papers, technological papers, and architectural. We do it all.”

The A.P. exams are given every year in May, with results coming out over the summer.  But the way that testing and evaluation works with both courses is very unique.

“It’s not typical of the other A.P. exams because it’s based on a portfolio of work,”  Ryan said.

“They do work throughout the year which includes conducting research, picking a methodology, and collecting data. Then they try to solve a problem, and give a presentation of their work.”

The A.P. Research paper counts as 75 percent of the total score, and the presentation counts as 25 percent. After completing the Seminar and Research courses, and scoring 3 or higher on the A.P. tests, students receive a Capstone diploma. Seminar students are now the current seniors, and have already gotten their Capstone diplomas.

Both Powers and Ryan have been teaching at North High School for 21 years, and say that the Capstone course has been a highlight in their teaching careers.

“We want to encourage and empower them to feel that they can explore and just express themselves, and I think that is the one thing that has helped us earn those five perfect scores over two years,”

Powers said of the rare accomplishment. “We’ve kind of unleashed the creative spirit in some of our brightest and best students. We’re now seeing the results.”

Have an opinion on this article? Send an email to