Chicago Public Schools recognized for expanding access to AP courses 

Student performance has increased


March 17, 2011


Chicago Public Schools today was recognized by the College Board for significant gains in access to and student performance in Advanced Placement courses. CPS was one four school districts nationally that were honored by the College Board as an “Advanced Placement District of the Year” for its efforts to encourage and support student participation in AP.


CPS Interim Chief Education Officer Dr. Charles Payne was joined by College Board representatives Ileana Rodriguez, vice president of the College Board’s Midwestern Regional Office, and Joel Gulko, senior educational manager K-12, for a press conference at John M. Harlan Community Academy High School, 9652 S. Michigan Ave. Harlan is one of a number of CPS high schools which has been implementing the  Chicago Advanced Placement Enhancement (CAPE) initiative, which aims to provide all students with equitable access to challenging coursework.


Funded under a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education, CAPE's purpose is to increase the number of low-income students who enroll in Advanced Placement courses and achieve college credit on AP exams.


In conjunction with university and business partners, CAPE has expanded and enhanced Advanced Placement courses in biology, calculus, chemistry, Chinese and English in a number of high-poverty CPS schools. To ensure that students receive the necessary instructional supports to succeed on Advanced Placement exams, AP teachers receive in-depth professional development, curricula is vertically aligned, and school year and summer enrichment programs are provided to students.

The university partners -- including Loyola University, DePaul University and the University of Chicago -- lead the development and implementation of the summer enrichment opportunities.


“The CAPE grant has allowed CPS to make significant inroads with traditionally underserved students and encourage their involvement in challenging AP instruction and coursework,” said CPS Interim Chief Executive Officer Terry Mazany. “The results we celebrate today show that the District is determined to create opportunities that will prepare our students with the knowledge and skills that are needed to compete and succeed in the 21st century.”


The College Board called CPS “the nation’s leader among large school districts in simultaneously expanding access to Advanced Placement and improving scores.” From 2008-2010, CPS achieved a larger increase than any school district in the U.S. in the number of traditionally underserved minority students taking AP classes who earned a score of 3 or better on at least one AP test. (A score of 3 on most AP tests is accepted for college credit by many colleges and universities.)

Between 2008 and 2010, CPS student participation in AP rose from 10,994 to 13,252, a 20 percent increase.


During the same period:


  • AP test takers among minority students rose about 25 percent from 2008 to 2010.


  • The percentage of AP students earning scores of 3 or higher went from 28 in 2008 to 30 in 2010.


  • The percentage of traditionally underserved minority AP students taking an AP test and earning scores of 3 or higher on at least one test rose from 16 percent in ’08 to 19 percent last year.


At Harlan, site of the press conference and a school with a low-income student body of about 94 percent, AP course offerings increased from five in 2008 to seven in 2010, with two more added this school year, and the number of AP tests administered rose from 82 in 2008 to 181 in 2010.


The CAPE grant extends until June 2012. The professional development opportunities for Advanced Placement teachers include summer institutes, quarterly sessions with professors from university partners, workshops and a citywide conference.


Through the grant, students are able to benefit from after-school AP prep sessions and summer school programs.


“Through the CAPE grant, and with a greater emphasis on the importance of Advanced Placement for CPS students who are looking ahead to higher education, we have been able to develop a comprehensive strategy that has led to these gains,” Mazany said. “The strategy has helped us create a program that is in the best long-term interests of our students and puts them on the path to long-term success.”


The College Board is also a grant partner. The organization annually provides four, four-hour professional development sessions focusing on curriculum alignment in grades 9-12 with AP course as the capstone course. 


“We appreciate the College Board’s support for our AP program and its recognition of our efforts. As this program continues to roll out, CPS fully expects additional gains such as those being announced today,” Mazany said.


The data used by the College Board omits AP Spanish language scores in identifying its AP Districts of the Year “because there are instances in which some districts are only fostering success in one AP subject, AP Spanish Language,” according to the College Board.


About CPS

Chicago Public Schools serves 409,279 students in 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.


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