AP Annual Conference Session Summary

This is a follow-up to my previous post describing the Broad Foundation publication Expanding Access to Advanced Placement. On Saturday, July 17, 2010, Luis de la Fuente of the Broad Foundation and I conducted a session at the AP Annual Conference in Washington DC. Despite our initial concern that no one would be able to find our session tucked away in a basement, we had great attendance from a broad range of participants including AP teachers, school and district administrators, counselors and even a state legislator investigating methods to increase AP participation and performance in his state! We provided attendees with a quick overview of the publication and then broke them up into groups to discuss the best practices that are outlined in the guide so that they would have the opportunity to share their own strategies and to learn from others in attendance. At the end of the session, each group shared a quick summary with the entire audience and I promised that I would post a summary and discussion of what occurred on my blog.

For the next week, I hope to put up a new post each evening that discusses one of the five topics addressed by the groups. I hope that these will provide you some ideas of things that you might try in order to improve AP participation and performance in your own school or district. I also really hope that these postings will generate discussion and that you will take a moment to write a comment, perhaps elaborating on a strategy that you have seen described briefly here or by sharing something you have tried that proved effective.

The first topic to be addressed is AWARENESS. How do we get important stakeholders to increase their awareness of the value of the AP program in our schools? It is important for students, parents, teachers, administrators, school board members and community members to understand why AP classes and exams should be supported.

• One school hosts an annual AP Awareness Week. This might take place in conjunction with registration for next year’s classes.

• Take advantage of existing systems and structures to raise awareness of AP. If your school already publishes an course catalog, for example, can there be a page devoted to listing the AP courses that are available as well as a listing of the advantages of participating in those classes.

• Have AP teacher and students talk directly to middle school students to help them realize the potential benefits and opportunities that AP classes provide.

Reach out to elementary and middle school principals. Creating a college-going culture is a long-term project. Early awareness can be key to better preparing students for challenging academic work.

• Create visibility for your AP program. Many of our AP classes design class t-shirts. We have posters that are hanging in the hallway promoting various classes. We also have short segments on our in-school television network interviewing AP teachers and students about their classes.

• Have students and parents of students in AP talk to one another. (Be selective so that messengers send the “right” message.) This is one of the main purposes of my AP Ambassadors group, described in a previous post. This strategy seems particularly effective for encouraging participation amongst under-represented populations (low income, Hispanic and African-American in my school.)

Raise awareness around financial incentives. (Work with college/university to determine the amount saved.) This can be done on both an individual and school-wide basis. With a student’s permission, you could make a poster showing the smiling student and a statement “Joe Blow earned 42 hours of college credit through his AP exams, thus saving his family over $18,000 in college expenses at the University of Texas.” Another poster might say, “RahRah High School students saved more than $567,000 in tuition, fees, room and board based on the credit hours earned with their Advanced Placement scores.” There is also a great flyer available from the College Board that addresses this issue.

Please feel free to post a comment sharing your own favorite strategy for raising awareness of your AP program. Tomorrow night’s topic: IDENTIFICATION OF AP STUDENTS.

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