Careful use of data can guide school administrators as they deploy limited resources to promote college readiness for all students.
The most effective way to expand opportunity is to ensure that students who are likely to succeed in advanced classes are actually taking them, says Trevor Packer, who heads the College Board’s AP division. The College Board’s web site allows school officials to identify, by name, students whose PSAT scores indicate strong potential for AP success. Schools can focus on recruiting these students into high-level courses.
This winter, the College Board emailed every African-American student in the country who had scored well on the PSAT, urging them to enroll in AP courses next year. Similar letters went to the students’ parents, teachers and school administrators.
“We know these students are ready but have been under-represented in these classrooms,” Packer says. “We want to surround these students with as many voices as possible encouraging them to do this work.”
But readying students for college requires more than just offering AP or IB courses, educators note.
California’s high-poverty, largely Hispanic El Monte Union High School District—where the AP program earned College Board recognition this year—tackled its challenges not with a single program, but with a multi-pronged strategy, Superintendent Nick Salerno says.
Among the elements of that strategy are:
- a long-term effort to eliminate below-grade-level courses in core subjects;
- a beefed-up commitment to implementing Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), the national college-readiness program;
- partnerships with local institutions of higher education;
- intensive monitoring of transcripts to ensure students stay on the right track to meet California’s public college entrance requirements;
- multiple conversations with parents about the college admissions process.