Editorial: Glenbard Dist. 87's credit-worthy success in expanding AP participation

The Daily Herald Editorial Board
Posted11/2/2016 7:59 AM
  • Students work out a problem together in the new AP Center at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn.

      Students work out a problem together in the new AP Center at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Much has been said and written about the high cost of a college education and the debt students carry for years because of it.

So when a local high school district can have a positive impact even before a student sits down in a college classroom, that's a success story worth touting.

Glenbard High School District 87 in DuPage County is one such district. As staff writer Katlyn Smith wrote last week, District 87's goal for the class of 2018 is to get 60 percent of those seniors to pass at least one advance placement (AP) exam before they graduate. When they do, they get college credit and potentially save money on tuition.

But the only way to get that many high school students to pass an AP exam is to reach out to groups of students that don't generally take those kinds of classes.

"Advance Placement programs are a good example of how we can't keep doing what we have always done," District 87 Superintendent David F. Larson wrote in an article published in the Daily Herald in July. "Gone should be the days when high schools sort students into 'college-bound' and 'not college-bound' tracks. Nationwide, this is a challenge that is largely being unmet -- fewer than 1 percent of high schools in the United States have AP classes that are as diverse as the overall population of the school."

But in District 87, school leaders actively worked to change those numbers. The district became one of only seven from Illinois in the fall 2015 to work with a national nonprofit aimed at closing the racial and economic gaps in AP enrollment. And in so doing, 874 juniors and seniors enrolled in AP this year that otherwise would have been "missing."

For their efforts, District 87 was recognized last month by the White House and the U.S. Department of Education. Among the Class of 2016 at Glenbard's four high schools, 41 percent passed one or more AP exams. Each of the school's were named to a Washington Post list of "America's Most Challenging High Schools" which ranks based on AP participation.

Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn was one of only three high schools to fully close its AP enrollment gap -- meaning its AP participation matches the diversity of its overall student population.

That is a significant achievement. Glenbard South and the district itself are deserving of all the kudos coming their way. They should serve as an example for more high schools in the suburbs to do the same.

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