What Makes a Successful AP Program

Recently, I was in Washington DC for an event sponsored by the College Board and the US Department of Education for schools that have been awarded grants to build their AP programs. I spoke on a panel alongside one of my former students, now a math major at Howard University. In preparing for the event, we had to write up a one pager to summarize the factors that we thought were most important to the success of our AP program. I have copied that here for you to consider.

Student Support Services: Raising Achievement for Underserved Students
We are from Pflugerville High School, a 2300 student high school with a rural history, suburban location and urban demographic. Our AP participation has increased from less than 100 exams given in 2000 to over 1000 in 2012, with strong performance in all subject areas.
What are the factors and practices that have produced our success?
• Ours is a district-wide effort encompassing three high schools and the five (soon to be six) feeder middle schools. There are clearly identified roles and leadership.

• We have broadly adopted the preAP concept and provide time for vertical teaming.

• We dig deep to find students capable of being successful in AP classes using AP Potential, AP Ambassadors, alternative pathways and unusual entry points. We look for strength based on both data and personality and don’t adhere to rigid guidelines.

• Our teachers are trained, we adopt best practices and we make deliberate use of College Board, LTF (Laying the Foundation) and NSMI workshops and materials.

• Our teachers understand the necessity of both challenging and supporting students. They are not AP students when they enter our classrooms so we make an effort to fill the gaps, have clearly identified and understood safety nets and provide extra time on task through both tutorials and Saturday prep sessions. Challenge lies in our level of expectations, our attention to detail and clear communication rather than in quantity of work or in the grading scale.

• We keep the focus on the students and their ultimate success and celebrate our achievements at every opportunity we get.

If you want to learn more about what we do at PHS, please google Dixie Ross AP Lead Teacher to find the blog that I write about increasing access to and equity in AP programs.

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