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.

Education at J. Sterling Morton High School District 201

School board president Jeff Pesek leads J. Sterling Morton High School District 201. In this role, Jeff Pesek oversaw the restructured operational functions and staff responsibilities to focus on initiatives set forth in the district’s three-year plan. In addition, the board president developed the parameters for the Learning Support System in an effort to better serve students.

Serving Cicero, Illinois schools, the J. Sterling Morton High School District 201 has a vision of integrating comprehensive curriculums that challenge students and prepare them for college. To ensure the school district meets its goals, faculty and staff continuously participate in professional development. Furthermore, each teacher uses student-centered instruction that includes experiential learning strategies to help students extend their education beyond the classroom.

Developing skills, knowledge, and values, experiential learning takes students out of the classroom to explore education in a non-traditional academic setting. Experiential learning can come in many forms, including field trips and internships. The activities are thoughtfully planned and supervised by educators to guarantee each student is excelling in areas of critical analysis, decision making, social and intellectual engagement, and accountability.