A district-by-district look at AP assistance programs
Suburban school districts offer a variety of interventions and programs to increase participation in Advanced Placement exams, which for Latinos has more than quadrupled in the last decade. Here are some examples:
Northwest Suburban District 214
The number of Latino students taking AP tests has nearly doubled in three years -- from 450 students in the 2010-11 to 979 students in 2013-14. Of those test-takers, nearly 72 percent scored a 3 or better, significantly above the national average of 21.6 percent for the College Board AP exam, said Lazaro Lopez, associate superintendent for teaching and learning.
"Overall, we continue to increase significantly, among every population, the number of AP exams being taken," he said. "The success rates have remained consistently high."
In 2014, the total number of AP tests taken was 8,125 and nearly 78 percent of those students scored a 3 or above.
"Just under 50 percent of our students graduate having taken and passed at least one AP exam," Lopez said.
Advancement Via Individual Determination, or AVID, is offered at Wheeling and Rolling Meadows high schools, the most diverse in the district. But each of its six high schools has interventions in place to ensure "students are reaching their fullest potential," he added.
Wheeling High School offers a program, "Estrellas" (Stars), for freshmen Latino girls who show potential. It provides mentorship, tutoring and helps students connect with their peers so they have a support system.
"It's a significant growth process for students going through advance placement for the first time," Lopez said. "If they can leave our district feeling confident enough that they can be successful in a college classroom, that certainly goes a long way."
Barrington Dist. 220
In its homegrown version of AVID, a social worker helps guide gifted and talented students from low-income families from first grade all the way through high school.
The program works well, but underrepresented students still need more help, said Barrington High School Principal Steve McWilliams.
Roughly 40 percent of the school population has taken at least one AP test in four years -- with roughly the same percentage among Latino students.
"We are right around 1,000 AP candidates right now," McWilliams said, adding officials hope to double that number in three years. "We are working with all of our socioeconomic and racial subgroups. All of our students have an opportunity to be part of our dual language program, which starts in kindergarten and goes into 12th grade."
Barrington High School recently has adopted native language and heritage AP tests, which focus on literature specific to Spanish culture.
"It actually builds on a strength that they already have," McWilliams said. "We've got a number of students taking the AP Spanish literature course. For all students, when you are looking at AP classes, you want to try to match courses where they have talent."
Huntley Dist. 158
Expanding AP course options increase students' chances of success, educators say. Huntley students can take AP exams in 22 subjects, including foreign languages, music theory and art history.
"It hits every interest area," said Angie Daurer, Huntley High School guidance counselor and AP test coordinator. "That is why there are more students taking AP classes."
Every Huntley AP student is required to take the test. The number of overall test-takers jumped from 260 students in 2010-11 to 637 students in 2013-14 -- of which 39 students were Latino. Of those graduating seniors, 44 percent scored a 3 or higher in at least one AP test, Daurer said.
"We do not specifically target any one demographic," Daurer said. "We work pretty hard at creating a culture of challenging yourself."
Crystal Lake Dist. 155
The district historically has had high AP participation and success rates, said Scott Kubelka, director of curriculum and assessment.
"In the 2013-14 school year, based upon students who earned a 3, 4, or 5 on our AP exam, we estimated a savings to our families of $4.1 million," Kubelka said.
That's based on the average cost for a three-credit course at Northern Illinois University, he added.
The district saw an overall increase of 500 students from the previous year enrolled in AP coursework in 2014-15 -- a total of 1,829.
"Of our Hispanic students that are 11th and 12th graders, over half are enrolled in AP coursework," Kubelka said. "What we've noticed, regardless of the ethnicity, is participation in AP coursework is lowest when those students represent low-income families. Only a third of low-income Latino students are enrolled in AP coursework. We've been targeting incoming freshmen, using past academic performance and a variety of criteria, income status, and enrolling them in programs like AVID. These students are most often first generation college kids in their family."