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Expanding AP class offerings just one step in preparing kids for graduation

Expanding AP class offerings just one step in preparing kids for graduation
Baltimore school officials are expanding Advanced Placement courses to every school in the city. (Photo by Amy Davis/ Baltimore Sun)

In Baltimore, schools can be divided into the haves and have nots.

There are well-resourced schools where students can take a wide variety of courses and have access to a multitude of educational paths. Then there are those with limited offerings and less of a chance for students to become prepared for life after high school. Sadly, in an epic failure of the school system that has spanned generations, the schools with fewer choices are those in the poorest neighborhoods with many students already at a disadvantage.

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The school system has taken a well-intentioned and needed step to close some of that gap by expanding Advanced Placement courses, according to a report by The Sun’s Talia Richman. The district will work over the next three years to make sure six AP classes are offered at every high school across the city. At least one such class will be offered at each school this coming school year.

Currently, there are nine traditional high schools that didn’t offer any of these classes during the last academic school year. The decision not to offer these classes is failing black students the most. White students in Baltimore are 2.6 times more likely than black students to be enrolled in these classes, which can give them a leg up when entering college. That is not OK in a school system where 80% of the students are African American.

The expansion of AP classes is good news in the effort to make sure city students are getting an equitable education. Every student should have access to the courses and curriculum that will set them on a career path. Along the same lines, schools CEO Sonja Santelises also has said she wants to improve the offering of vocational training across schools for those students who may not be college-bound, but can still learn other skills to prepare them for gainful employment.

But the system must be careful to make sure there is support to make sure students do well in more advanced classes. It is not enough just to offer the classes or for the students to take the courses just for the sake of it. The students still need to be prepared to take the classes so they don’t struggle and fail. More students across the country are taking AP classes, but not necessarily scoring high enough on the exams to get college credit because they don’t have the educational foundation. That needs to change.

Teachers need to be trained to instruct the classes and be able to help students when they hit rough spots. Exposing kids to rigorous and challenging classes can help prepare them for college, but only if they are able to master the material.

The school system seems to be aware of this and has sent some teachers for training on how to teach AP classes. We urge them to monitor this closely as they roll out the AP expansion.

Not all students will struggle, even at schools not known as the strongest academically. If implemented correctly, we believe that there are students who can achieve at AP classes once given the chance to take them. And now they will have that chance.

The school system’s decision comes as the importance of AP exams has come under question. Some private schools have even agreed to stop offering such classes. Other school systems are expanding AP course offerings, including in New York.

We think there still can be benefits to AP exams and classes. For one, studies have shown that those students who score high on the exams do tend to do well in college. There is also a financial benefit. African Americans tend to struggle to pay for college. They can could knock off a class or two, or even a semester, by scoring well on enough AP exams to get college credit.

As long as the school systems continues to see benefits in AP exams, it is only fair that they are offered to all schools.

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