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Efforts to increase the number and diversity of students taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes at Evanston Township High School are not only working, but will better prepare students for college, according to a report presented to the District 202 School Board at their April 21 meeting.

Advanced Placement Recruitment and Retention Coordinator Dale Leibforth presented data showing that the number of students enrolled in one or more AP courses at ETHS has more than tripled from 290 students in 1995-96 to 937 students in 2013-14. This year 65% of juniors and seniors are enrolled in AP courses, up from 40% in 2004-2005.

This trend holds true when looking at the breakdown by racial/ethnic subgroups.

Mr. Leibforth said the percentage of black and Latino students in the AP program has also tripled: For eleventh and twelth grades, the percentage of black students enrolled in one or more AP courses has increased from 13% in 2004-05 to 38% in 2013-14.

Latino student enrollment in one or more AP courses has more than tripled, from 15% in 2004-05 to 51% in 2013-14.

The percentage of white students enrolling on one or more AP courses also has risen from 62% in 2004-05 to 83% in 2013-14, Mr. Leibforth said.

AP courses give students the chance to take college-level classes while still in high school. An exam is administered at the end of each term and those who earn a qualifying grade can apply for college credit.

Success Factors

TeamASAP (team Access and Success in Advanced Placement) was created by ETHS faculty and staff after hearing from students who felt more support was needed for those interested in tackling AP coursework. Many black and Latino students expressed concern that the school was not doing enough to include minorities in the college-level classes.

Students who have taken or are enrolled in AP classes make up teamASAP which organizes events to help “prepare, support and empower students for the successful completion of an Advanced Placement course as well as the corresponding AP exam” states the report presented to the School Board.

Other initiatives have boosted participation in Advanced Placement classes as well. ETHS continues to expand the number of AP courses available and will offer 29 different classes in seven different departments in the 2014-2015 school year. “Bridge classes” like Bridge to AP Art Portfolio and Bridge to AP Chemistry help boost the skills and confidence needed to be successful in the program. More personalized recruiting and revisions to the application process have removed barriers to participation and the retention of students in the program.

Benefits of AP Coursework

Students who take or even attempt AP courses not only do better in college, according to Beth Arey, ETHS College and Career Coordinator, but are more likely to enroll in college and continue their education to begin with. At ETHS, 93 percent of students who complete at least one AP course enroll in college the fall immediately following high school graduation. Of ETHS students who did not complete an AP course, 60 percent enrolled in college.

Two studies cited in the report to the School Board back up these claims.

The studies analyzed college outcomes in Texas and found that students who took AP classes in high school generally got higher GPAs, earned more credits and were more likely to attain a baccalaureate degree.

A third study cited (“Crossing the Finish Line: Completing College at America’s Public Universities”) concluded that AP scores are a better indicator of a student’s ability to complete college than the SAT and ACT.

Increased awareness across the country of ETHS’s equality and excellence efforts has also proven to be a byproduct of the program’s success according to the report submitted to the Board. The high school has become a model in many districts and some ETHS staff members have been given leadership positions on various boards and committees, mentoring other schools in developing similar programs, states the report.

 The AP program has also led to ETHS earning national awards and high rankings. According to U.S. News & World Report’s “Best High Schools” rankings for 2014, ETHS ranked 21st in Illinois and 524 in the nation, placing ETHS in the top 2-3 percent of high schools nationwide, a ranking that also includes selective enrollment high schools. The Washington Post recently ranked ETHS among America’s top high schools putting it at 639 in the national ranking, and 12th in Illinois. Both papers’ rankings are based on how well students are prepared for college among other indicators. (See sidebar for more information on these rankings.)

The presentation to the School Board concluded with comments from three members of teamASAP who discussed their experiences with the AP program. Conrad Gordon (Junior), Tanya Tovar (Junior) and Jonathan Senecal (Junior) all gave the program high marks, saying that teamASAP enriched their high school experience, boosted their confidence and skills, and better prepared them for their future.

“There is a scholar in every student who walks into this school,” said Mr. Senecal, who is currently taking AP chemistry and calculus. With all of the resources available, “there is almost no way to fail.”


ETHS Receives Silver Medal in ⁎ation⁳ Best High Schools†Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report released in April its “Best High Schools” rankings for 2014. Evanston Township High School ranked at 21 in the Illinois and 524 in the nation, placing ETHS in the top 2-3 percent of high schools nationwide, a ranking that includes selective-enrollment high schools. The silver-medal ranking awarded ETHS was based on factors that include state proficiency standards and how well students are prepared for college.

Just a few weeks earlier, the Washington Post released its annual national public high schools ranking, “America’s Most Challenging High Schools,” based on how effectively each school prepares its students for college. Only 9% of the nation’s 22,000 high schools made this list; ETHS is ranked 17th in the state and 652nd in the nation.

“I have the opportunity to interact with students and to see firsthand every day the amazing opportunities and learning experiences that they have at ETHS,” said ETHS District 202 Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. “I cannot imagine any better place for a student to attend high school. For ETHS to be ranked as one of the best high schools in the nation is a well-deserved recognition.”

“Our determination to raise academic expectations for all students at ETHS, our recognition that many more ETHS students should be taking and benefiting from our most challenging courses, and our knowledge of the compelling research showing that students taking the most challenging AP classes perform better in their post-secondary experiences, even if they do not score a 3 or higher on an AP exam, is resulting in ETHS ranking high among America’s most challenging high school. Our students are benefiting from our commitment to providing more rigor and challenge for all students.”

ETHS, ranked at 17th in the State by the Post, showed well among area high schools: Stevenson-3; Hersey-7; Prospect-9; ETHS-17; Barrington-18; Highland Park-20; Maine East-24; Glenbrook North-27; Glenbrook South-28, Oak Park/River Forest-29; New Trier-49; Maine South-50; Maine West-58; Niles West-62.

Links to the ETHS rankings at the Post’s and World Report’s websites can be found online at www.eths.k12.il.us/about.

Jay Mathews, Post education columnist, developed the Post’s method of ranking.