NEW YORK — Four school districts in the nation will be honored by the College Board with 2011 AP® District of the Year awards for opening AP classroom doors to a significantly broader pool of students while maintaining or improving the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher. Three of these districts — Chicago Public Schools, Chicago (large district); Colton Joint Unified School District, Colton, Calif. (medium district); and West New York School District, West New York, N.J. (small district) — achieved the most significant improvements in the nation in access to college-level AP courses while maintaining or improving student performance on the end-of-course AP Exam. One district — Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa, Fla. — will receive the Beacon Award for its profound achievement in using AP to create a culture focused on college readiness. The 2011 AP District of the Year awards will be presented at a celebratory plenary session at the AP Annual Conference in San Francisco on July 22.
Additionally, the College Board has released an AP Achievement List of 388 school districts that have had similar successes.
“These districts are defying expectations by expanding access while improving scores,” said College Board President Gaston Caperton. “They are experimenting with initiatives and strategies that have driven increases in average exam scores when making AP available to a much broader and more diverse student population. Over the next two months we will work closely with each of the AP District of the Year winners to document what they are doing so we can share their best practices with all members of the AP community.”
Participation in college-level AP courses can level the playing field for underserved students, give them the confidence needed to succeed in college, and raise standards and performance in key subjects such as science and math. Many U.S. school districts have focused on expanding access to AP courses as part of a strategy for fostering college readiness. While these efforts have resulted in more than double the number of students earning scores of 3 or better — the score typically cited as a “qualifying” or “successful” score because the majority of U.S. colleges and universities provide college credit or advanced placement for this score — these efforts have also resulted in more than double the number of students now earning scores of 1 or 2. Accordingly, there has been a slight decline since 2001 in the percentage of AP students scoring 3 or better on at least one AP Exam, a decline that is to be expected in any program attracting a broader cross-section of students.
That said, helping more students learn at a higher level and earn higher AP scores is an objective of all members of the AP community, from AP teachers to district and school administrators to college professors. Many are experimenting with a variety of initiatives and strategies to determine how to expand access and improve student performance simultaneously.
“A common element across these award-winning districts is that they are not focused on AP alone — they use AP’s rigor and high standards as a key element of a much larger college readiness system. Efforts to instill rigor in middle school and foster a college-going culture prepare students for Advanced Placement course work as the final stepping stone to college,” said Eric Cantor, senior vice president of the College Board’s College Readiness division.
AP District of the Year Winners
Beacon Award: Hillsborough County Public Schools, Tampa, Fla.
From 2008 to 2010, Hillsborough achieved the largest increase in the number of students earning AP scores of 3 or better of any school district in the nation, an increase of 1,814 students. No other school district on this year’s AP District Honor Roll approaches this large of an increase in the number of individual students who earned scores of 3 or better and thereby qualify for college cost savings. In the same time period, Hillsborough increased student participation in AP courses and exams by an annual rate of 19 percent.
While dramatically expanding access, Hillsborough maintained the percentage of AP students scoring 3 or better at 40 percent in 2008 and 2010 and increased the percentage of underserved minority AP students scoring 3 or better from 28 percent to 29 percent. The result is that 628 more of these minority students earned AP scores of 3 or higher in 2010 than in 2008, the second-largest increase of any district in the country.
“Hillsborough has attained unmatched achievement by aligning and focusing an entire community — from principals to teachers to parents and students — on the goal of college and career readiness,” said Cantor. “Superintendent MaryEllen Elia is a visionary leader who has taken one of the largest districts in the nation and achieved real transformation in a relatively short period of time. Her dedication to the students of Hillsborough is exemplary.”
Chicago Public Schools (large school district)
Chicago Public Schools is the nation’s leader among large school districts in simultaneously expanding access to AP and improving scores. From 2008 to 2010, the district:
- increased student participation in AP from 10,994 to 13,252 students (a 10 percent annual increase);
- increased the percentage of AP students earning scores of 3 or higher — from 28 percent to 30 percent;
- increased the percentage of traditionally underserved minority AP students earning scores of 3 or higher from 16 percent to 19 percent; and
- achieved a larger increase than any other district in the U.S. in the number of traditionally underrepresented minority students earning a score of 3 or better on at least one AP Exam. In 2010, 718 more of these minority students scored 3 or better than in 2008.
Colton Joint Unified School District, Colton, Calif. (medium school district)
Colton Joint Unified School District is the nation’s leader among medium-size school districts in simultaneously expanding access to AP and improving scores. From 2008 to 2010, the district:
- increased student participation in AP from 388 to 500 students, a 14 percent annual increase;
- increased the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher from 24 percent to 37 percent; and
- increased the percentage of traditionally underserved minority students earning scores of 3 or higher, from 19 percent to 34 percent.
West New York School District, West New York, N.J. (small school district)
West New York, N.J., is the nation’s leader among small school districts in simultaneously expanding access to AP and improving scores. From 2008 – 2010, the district:
- increased student participation in AP from 48 to 99 students, a 44 percent annual increase;
- increased the percentage of AP students earning scores of 3 or higher from 21 percent to 37 percent; and
- increased the percentage of traditionally underserved minority AP students earning scores of 3 or higher from 23 percent to 36 percent.
National AP Achievement List
The AP Achievement List is not necessarily a register of the highest-performing AP districts — rather, it is composed of all districts that are simultaneously expanding opportunity and improving performance, so that even low-performing districts are included if they have been able to maintain or improve scores while expanding access. The list includes 388 school districts representing 43 states, with California’s 37 districts on the list representing the largest number of districts from a single state, followed by Michigan with 29 districts and Pennsylvania with 28 districts. Inclusion on the list is based on the following criteria:
- Examination of three years of AP data, from 2008 to 2010
- Increase in participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 7 percent in medium districts and at least 11 percent in small districts
- A steady or increasing percentage of exams taken by African American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native students
- Performance levels maintained or improved when comparing the percentage of exams scoring 3 or higher in 2010 to 2008
Additionally, school districts with an AP student population composed of 50 percent or more traditionally underrepresented minority students (African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native) and/or low-income students have been noted on the Achievement List to highlight significant improvements in equity and quality among the nation’s historically underserved student populations.
“These districts are living proof that when access to AP is provided for the range and breadth of prepared and motivated students, districts can achieve even higher learning outcomes for their students — and the opportunity for so many more to earn college credit and placement — than when AP opportunities were restricted to a smaller segment of the high school population” said Trevor Packer, vice president of the Advanced Placement Program at the College Board.
About the Advanced Placement Program
The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program® (AP®) enables students to pursue college-level studies while still in high school. Through more than 30 college-level courses, each culminating in a rigorous exam, AP provides willing and academically prepared students with the opportunity to earn college credit, advanced placement or both. Taking AP courses also demonstrates to college admission officers that students have sought the most rigorous curriculum available to them. Each AP teacher’s syllabus is evaluated and approved by college faculty from some of the nation’s leading institutions, and AP Exams are developed and scored by college faculty and experienced AP teachers. AP is accepted by more than 3,800 colleges and universities worldwide for college credit, advanced placement or both on the basis of successful AP Exam scores. This includes over 90 percent of four-year institutions in the United States. In 2010, 1.8 million students representing more than 17,000 schools around the world, both public and nonpublic, took 3.2 million AP Exams.
About the College Board
The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity. Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of more than 5,900 of the world’s leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT® and the Advanced Placement Program®. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and schools. For further information, visit www.collegeboard.org.
Jennifer Topiel, the College Board, 212-713-8052, firstname.lastname@example.org