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posted: 3/29/2011 12:01 AM

High schools recognized for increased academic rigor

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Officials from the Illinois State Board of Education and a national college organization have issued kudos to 27 high school districts for increasing advanced placement exam participation.

Among those on the list are Warren Township High School District 121 in Gurnee, Wauconda Unit District 118, Grayslake High School District 127 and Antioch-Lake Villa Area High School District 117.

State education officials and the College Board singled out the high schools for implementing more rigorous learning standards. The College Board is in charge of the Standardized Achievement Test, the most widely used university entrance exam.

To be recognized, the high schools needed to boost student access to more demanding advanced placement exams by 4 percent to 11 percent depending on enrollment size. The AP data was examined from 2008 through 2010.

Warren Township High School board members embraced the good academic news for their district at a recent meeting. Warren board President John Anderson said the district has had a mission to offer a more rigorous curriculum to pupils.

"We've been working very hard toward this goal for several years," Anderson said.

At the Grayslake High School system, officials said the effort to increase the number of advanced placement exams began in 2006.

Denise Kindle, the assistant superintendent for personnel services, said total number of AP exams at Grayslake Central and North went from 436 in 2006 to 1,250 in 2010.

"As (advanced placement) courses provide our students with college-level rigor and college credit, students in AP classes have a higher success rate in the college environment after having taken courses at this level," Kindle said.

State Board of Education officials said the list recognizing the increased AP opportunities, released last week, was not a roster of higher performing districts. It was meant to highlight the districts simultaneously improving performance and expanding opportunity.

Among the criteria used for the kudos, the percentage of African-American, Hispanic/Latino and American Indian/Alaskan native pupils must not be dropping.

"Whether students are honing their skills in science, math, a foreign language, history or other subject, they're pushing themselves beyond high school-level work that will better prepare them for success in college and careers," State Superintendent of Education Christopher Koch said in a statement.