Expanding Access to Advanced Placement

As president of the board of education for Illinois’ JS Morton High School District 201, Jeff Pesek effectively expanded access to advanced placement (AP) courses. Using the open-enrollment model, Jeff Pesek facilitated the introduction of pre-AP seminars and expanded course offerings that have made Morton 201 a statewide leader in Latino success in AP courses.

According to the College Board, advanced placement and other rigorous courses play a key role in preparing students for college success. Participation in these classes by minority and under-resourced students has improved measurably in recent years, yet statistics still show a marked inequality. In 2013, for example, 15 percent of graduating high school students were black, but only 9 percent took the AP exam. Similarly, in a cohort that included 48 percent of students from low-income families, only 28 percent took the exam.

Organizations such as Equal Opportunity Schools have undertaken the effort to reduce this disparity. A collaborative initiative known as Lead Higher, which includes the participation of EOS as well as groups such as the College Board and the International Baccalaureate Organization, aims to bring 100,000 new under-represented students into AP courses by 2018. Meanwhile, the College Board is working to encourage minority and low-income students to enroll in AP coursework through a number of programs, including the All In campaign, which identifies high-potential course candidates using standardized test scores.