St. Vrain Valley School District recognized for increasing access to AP classes

Longmont's Skyline High School, with the help of a grant, in 2014 started working on diversifying its Advanced Placement classes.
In 2013, the school had 127 students enrolled in AP classes. This year, AP class enrollment is up to 773.
To support students, the school offers mock exam opportunities and Saturday study sessions. The school's education foundation also covers the cost of about half the AP exams taken by students in core classes.
"We want every student to take at least one AP class before they graduate," said Assistant Principal Greg Stephens. "Just the experience of being in an AP class is going to prepare you for future success."
While he said the school places less emphasis on taking AP exams than on the experience of taking a rigorous class, he noted that the school's scores on AP exams have't decreased as enrollment increased.
About 60 percent of the school's AP class students receive passing grades.
"It's about believing the kids can do it, and all kids can learn at a high level," he said. "They can access this material if they're given the right supports."
St. Vrain Valley recently was recognized as one of four school districts in Colorado — and 373 in North America — to make the College Board's Annual AP District Honor Roll.
The honor roll "recognizes school districts committed to increasing access to AP for underrepresented students while simultaneously maintaining or increasing the percentage of students earning AP exam scores of 3 or higher."
The exams are scored on a scale of 1 to 5, with many colleges offering credit for a "passing" score of 3 or higher.
In St. Vrain, enrollment in AP classes has increased by 50 percent since 2014, according to district officials, while minority enrollment increased by about 80 percent.
"We've had a big push across the district to increase the number of students taking AP courses," said St. Vrain Assistant Superintendent Tori Teague.
This school year, the district has AP classes in 26 subject areas, with 3,041 students enrolled in at least one class.
The most popular classes are English language, U.S. government and politics, biology, English literature, statistics, psychology and human geography.
All the district's high schools offer AP classes, while five schools offer the AP Capstone program to about 250 students.
Capstone students take AP seminar and research classes. Students who earn scores of 3 or higher on the exams for those classes, as well as scoring 3 or higher on four other AP exams of their choosing, earn a Capstone diploma.
St. Vrain Assessment Coordinator Kim Wiggins said the investment in AP classes is part of the district's overall strategy to provide students with multiple pathways that lead to career and college success.
Research shows students who take AP classes are more likely to attend college and graduate within four years, she said.
When compared to students who had similar scores on the SAT college entrance exam, students with just one AP qualifying score also were 25 percent more likely to graduate college, she said.
Along with adding classes, the district also has an AP coordinator at each high school whose job includes recruiting students.
"A large part of our communications is there's no such thing as an AP kid versus a non AP kid," Wiggins said. "It's about every student having access."