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Scores on Advanced Placement (AP) classes at ETHS have increased over the last 10 years, as has the number and diversity of the students taking them according to a report presented to the members of the District 202 School Board at their Jan. 17 meeting.  

From the 2006-2007 school year through last year, there was a 107% increase in the number of AP exams taken (1059 to 2194). During that same time there was a 61% increase in the number of exam scores of 3 or higher (872 to 1406). These increases also bear out when broken down by subgroups.

The accompanying charts show the percentage of 11th and 12th graders, by race/ethnicity, who took an AP exam and the percentage who received a score of 3 or higher on the exam in the years indicated. The charts illustrate that between 2007 and 2013, there were significant increases, but growth seems to have plateaued in 2013 for white students and in 2014 for Hispanic and black students.    

Nationally, 20% of students taking AP classes earn a 3 or higher on at least one AP exam, Pete Bavis, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, told the Board. At ETHS, that number is 45%, he said, adding that District 202 bases their number on total enrollment, not total test takers like other schools. The goal at ETHS is “universal success and access,” said Dr. Bavis.

These successes in AP have earned ETHS national recognition from several sources including The American School Board Association, College Board, MSAN, ASCD Education Leadership, and PBS News Hour, as well as national rankings from US News and World Report and the Washington Post, says the report.
Supports Matter

“This work is grounded in the belief that opportunity and support matter,” said Dr. Bavis. “We are focused on providing students with the best education opportunities. For many students the best opportunity is an Advanced Placement course.”

“We continue to surround students with supports,“ said Dale Leibforth, AP Success Manager and TeamASAP facilitator. He told the Board that all department chairs meet regularly to determine “strategies to increase success.” The District has doubled the number of AP teachers all of whom are receiving AVID training. AVID or Advancement Via Individual Determination, is “a global nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the achievement gap by preparing all students for college and other postsecondary opportunities,” according to the organization’s website. Dr. Bavis and Mr. Leibforth also talked about how awareness of AP courses and college readiness requirements is beginning at a younger age. ETHS recently presented information on the program at a D65 Institute Day.

“Quite a few schools have invited us to talk about how to connect kids early on,” said Mr. Leibforth and the school is working to “inform the community” through AP forums.

During the presentation, a video clip from an AP forum was played, showing a student talking about her experiences with AP Chem/Phys. She spoke of how her grade went from a D to an A after using tutoring, AM Support and other aids available at ETHS. “Having gone through this, I can apply (what I learned) to other experiences,” she said.

AP and Success Across Subgroups

For many, skills learned in AP coursework carryover to college success. The report states that there is a “strong body of evidence that  AP and other rigorous courses attempted by students are predictors of college success, even outranking other predictors like GPA.” A 1999 U. S. Department of Education study by Clifford Adelman found that “the impact of a high school curriculum of high academic intensity and quality on degree completion is far more pronounced—and positively—for African-American and Latino students than any other pre-college indicator of academic resources. The impact for African-American and Latino students is also much greater than it is for white students.”

“When we examine access and success metrics in this report it is important to note that the work remains focused on disparate impacts,” said Dr. Bavis in the report.  “Yes, we have made significant growth for each subgroup, yet we still see disparate outcomes based on race.”

Board Member Jonathan Baum said that there is “nothing wrong” with the AP numbers plateauing “except they are plateauing with a persistent racial gap.” He asked if there are disparities between teachers.

“We look at just that. We hope for that but we haven’t found any outliers,” said Dr. Bavis.

“We are looking at a pathway up, how can we strengthen (the program) along the way,” said Mr. Leibforth.

Board Member Monique Parsons asked if data was collected on those who attempt an AP course but drop out. She also asked how the school was making sure the class environment was welcoming to all students.

While no numbers were given on those who dropped AP classes, Mr. Leibforth said the numbers were becoming “less and less,” that they have declined.

“We have done a series of micro-interventions,” said Dr. Bavis, focusing on values which “increase resistance to micro-aggression. We are coaching up on strategies.”

“I fully appreciate a plateau,” said Board Member Gretchen Livingston, who said that the success of the AP program is similar to the success of the program to reduce suspensions which also plateaued.  “Now trying to fine tune successes to do even better, even if incrementally better, is going to show smaller gains, but we’ve come so far.”