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Assistant Superintendent Pete Bavis presented a report to the District 202 School Board on Feb. 11 about results in the school’s advanced placement (AP) courses. The high school AP program, including the AP test, is designed and run by the College Board, which designs and administers the SAT test.
Students who achieve a certain score on an AP exam may be eligible for college credit. Illinois law, for example, requires all public community colleges and universities in Illinois to award college course credit to students who earn a score or 3 or higher on College Board AP exams. Each Illinois institution may set its own policy as to how that credit is allocated – whether toward a major, an elective or another requirement.
In 2018, Dr. Bavis reported, 976 students – 57% of the students in grades 11 and 12 – took one or more AP exams. Of those students, 720 scored a 3 or higher on at least one exam. Between 2012 and 2018, there was a 27% increase in the number of students taking at least one AP exam and a 30% increase in the number of students earning a score of 3 or higher.
2018 Scores and Totals
Black Students: In 2018, 132 Black students took AP exams, 65 of whom – or 49% – earned a score of 3 or higher. The number of Black students taking AP exams decreased from 159 the year before, but the percentage of students earning a 3 or higher increased from 41% in 2017 to 49% in 2018.
The number of Black students who took at least one AP exam in 2018 was 14% of the number of Black students in the 11th and 12th grades – students typically eligible to take an AP course.
Hispanic/Latinx Students: In 2018, 134 Hispanic/Latinx students took AP exams, 90 of whom – or 67% – earned a score of 3 or higher. The number of Hispanic/Latinx students taking AP exams increased from 119 the year before, and the percentage of students earning a 3 or higher increased from 65% in 2016-17 to 67% in 2017-18.
The number of Latinx students who took at least one AP exam in 2018 was 29% of the number of Latinx students in the 11th and 12th grades – students typically eligible to take an AP course..
White Students: in 2018, 606 White students took AP exams, 483 of whom – or 80% – earned a score of 3 or higher. The number of White students taking AP exams decreased slightly from the year before – from 617 to 606, but the percentage of students earning a 3 or higher increased from 78% in 2016-17 to 80% in 2017-18.
The number of White students who took at least one AP exam in 2018 was 62% of the number of White students in the 11th and 12th grades – students typically eligible to take an AP course.
In sum, students in 2018 took a total of 2,370 AP exams, 1,546 – or 65% – showed scores of 3 or higher; 945 showed scores of 4 or higher. See charts below.
AP exams in English Language & Composition (324 AP exams) AB Calculus (270 AP exams), and Psychology (261 AP exams) were the “leaders in access and success for students,” Dr. Bavis reported. That is consistent with recent years, he said. The table below summarizes the number of students who took AP exams in these three subjects and the percentage who obtained a score of 3 or higher.
While fewer students took exams in Physics C: Mechanics, Studio Arts: 2-D, 3-D, Drawing, French, Music Theory and Computer Science A, more than 90% of them earned a 3 or higher.
Board member Monique Parsons said there is no information about students who drop out of AP courses and why they do so.
Board member Jude Laude said he would like to have “a deeper look into students who drop out [of AP courses] and those who score less than 3 [on an AP exam].”
“We’ve had fewer dropouts,” said Tina Lulla, who teaches chemistry and AP Chemistry. “We have our students talk about that at lunch meetings.” The first few weeks are the toughest, she said, and teamASAP members push particularly hard to keep students in class the first two weeks.
Board member Jonathan Baum said, “I think these are incredible numbers. I think this initiative has done more to advance Goal 1 than any other initiative. … These numbers show that access is not the enemy of excellence.”
Dr. Bavis said there is a correlation among several things that helped to change the climate at the high school: the restructuring of freshman year, the training of staff in Beyond Diversity and the efforts to get more students to take AP classes.
Work, Recognized and Remaining
Dr. Bavis reported ETHS has received national recognition for getting a diverse student population to take a great number of AP courses and earn a 3 or higher on the tests. “This is the result of an indefatigable focus on results. ETHS has gained prominence for three reasons: Student participation has risen; more students are successful; and our AP program is more diverse than it has ever been.” His report listed places ETHS has been mentioned favorably, including national rankings from U.S. News and World Report and the Washington Post.
Dr. Bavis, Dr. Lulla, Dale Leibforth, Josh Brown and Beth Arey mentor AP students though Team Access & Success in Advanced Placement, known as teamASAP (see sidebar). The team “continues to connect to districts around the country to share best practices and continues to enhance our students’’ awareness, access, readiness and success in our Advanced Placement courses,” Dr. Bavis reported.
Mathematics Department Chair Dale Leibforth told the RoundTable, “Because of the success of teamASAP and our AP program at ETHS, many schools look to ETHS for guidance as they begin similar initiatives. We have collaborated with multiple districts in Illinois and Wisconsin, but have also worked with districts as far as California and the East Coast.”
Yet, challenges remain. ETHS must increase participation and success rates across all AP courses, Dr. Bavis said.
“There is a multiplier effect,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon. “More interventions [to attract students to AP classes and support them] increase access.”
Five faculty/staff members and about 650 students comprise teamASAP – Team Access & Success in Advanced Placement. Tina Lulla, Chemistry and AP Chemistry teacher, and Josh Brown are AP Recruitment & Retention Coordinators; Dale Leibforth, Mathematics Department chair, is AP Success Manager; Pete Bavis, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, is teamASAP Facilitator; and Beth Arey, College & Career Coordinator, is teamASAP Thought Partner.
teamASAP grew out of Access & Success in Advanced Placement, a committee Mr. Leibforth chaired. That blossomed into AP summer camps, and then into a community forum on access to AP courses, leading to the formation of teamASAP. “The team is student-run,” Mr. Leibforth said, “and they seek to make positive change ASAP. teamASAP was created by the students, for the students. It is a team that takes action prompted from student voice.”
To promote access and success, members of teamASAP try to make connections to all ETHS students, starting even before freshman year, to get them thinking about AP classes.
“We want to create awareness of AP class, be sure they are ready to take the classes and ensure they will succeed,” Mr. Leibforth said.
The team is open to everyone, freshmen through seniors, whether enrolled in an AP course, considering whether to do so or curious about AP.
The team meets monthly during all three lunch periods. Students are invited to drop in to learn about AP supports, get questions about AP courses answered, voice concerns, make connections with other students and have some pizza.
“Students can sign up or just show up to any meeting or event. We like to say that everyone is a member of the team. … There are around 150 student members of the team who regularly attend lunch meetings and events. We have around 20 student members of our Advisory Board Captains. There are 69 AP teachers that are a part of the team as well,” Mr. Leibforth told the RoundTable.
The annual AP fair, formerly held during lunch periods, is now a daylong event held in the HUB, the student gathering place. “Students come with teachers to learn about AP – we see about 400 students during the course of the day. We discuss the courses they could take to coincide with the career and college plans.
teamASAP members also reach out to middle-school students, talking about the transition to high school and about taking AP classes.
“We want to get students as early as possible,” Mr. Leibforth said. “It is a path to AP.”
“We try to make sure there is always space for equity – hearing students of color talk about ‘how it felt’ in class,” Mr. Brown said.
Dr. Lulla said teamASAP’s Advisory Board Captains facilitate conversations about race and equity and lead team-building exercises.
“It’s important for students of color and White students to have that conversation,” said Board President Pat Savage-Williams.
“We have to make sure students feel they belong and they have the tools to succeed,” said Superintendent Eric Witherspoon.
The team measures success both qualitatively and quantitavley. Mr. Leibforth said, “Quantitatively, we look at the unique number of students taking AP classes during a year and during their high school career. We also look at the number of students getting a proficient score of 3 or higher on the AP exam. Qualitatively, we have many, many conversations with our students.”