Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Advanced Placement for All

We recently had an interesting conversation with a New York City Department of Education (DOE) administrator, who shared his experiences with the DOE AP for All Program. The DOE has put extensive resources towards expanding access to Advanced Placement Exams, which measure college level competency and can reduce the number of courses required for graduation at some colleges.  At some NYC high schools, they are introducing AP classes for the first time, and at others they are expanding from two or three courses to eight or nine. Since this takes a lot of work from teachers and a lot of materials, the DOE provides funding to participating schools to encourage and support involvement. The DOE has stated that its goal is that by fall 2021, students at all high schools will have access to a full slate of at least five AP classes, thereby increasing college and career readiness for all students.

AP Exams are administered by the College Board, which charges $94 for each exam. NYC schools cover some or all of the cost of the exam for their students.

In addition to funding, the DOE provides ongoing training and curriculum to all partner schools. Week-long trainings in the summer, with workshops and updates throughout the year, help first-time and repeating AP class teachers to build the best curriculum. They also provide extra support to students at Saturday Study Sessions where students receive additional support to prepare for exams. This all comes together to provide access to a high-quality AP Course experience for students who may not have previously had the opportunity. The "For All" focus also means schools are pushed to allow access to those not traditionally scheduled for AP classes, like ENL (English as a New Language) students or students with disabilities.

Having all students take AP exams has had a mixed result in some states, as noted in a NY Times article from 2017. However, the College Board reported, that same year, that in New York City, "The number of students taking and scoring a 3 or higher increased in every borough, and across all ethnic groups." And 2018 data from the DOE shows gains in both numbers of students taking AP exams and passing them.

Computer Science for All, Algebra for All, and College Access for All are similar, full service type initiatives that provide funding to schools, materials to teachers, support for students, and training for all involved parties. These types of programs were previously limited only to specialized schools or to certain groups of students, but the ideal in the DOE now is that every student is deserving of these opportunities.