VAHS Receives National Recognition on Work to Close Achievement Gap

VAHS Receives National Recognition on Work to Close Achievement Gap
Posted on 10/18/2016
This is the image for the news article titled VAHS Receives National Recognition on Work to Close Achievement GapThe Verona Area School District was one of 75 school districts from across the country represented at the inaugural recognition convening in Washington DC to recognize and celebrate ground-breaking results in closing participation gaps in Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) programs.

Currently, fewer than one percent of high schools in the U.S. that have AP and / or IB programs equitably include Latino, Black, and low-income students in those programs. VAHS was recognized as one of those high schools that has made tremendous gains toward increasing the percentage of Latino, Black and low-income students in AP classes.

This inaugural recognition event builds on commitments that members of a group called “Lead Higher” have made to find 100,000 “missing students” over three years. The program strives to ensure that those previously-overlooked low-income students and students of color are matched with challenging high school learning opportunities that will prepare them for college and a future of their choosing.

“We saw a huge gap in the percentage of students of color and low-income students taking AP classes versus the percentage of white, non low-income students taking AP classes,” said Superintendent Dean Gorrell. “We want all of our students to have access to challenging curriculum.”

Research by the Education Trust and Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) has found that annually about two-thirds of a million talented “missing” low-income students and students of color are stuck literally just across the hall from AP and IB classes they could benefit from if enrolled in those classes by their schools.

The Verona Area High School is in year three of a partnership with EOS to find those missing students and get them enrolled in AP courses, provide data analysis to measure student and school specific causes of participation gaps and develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing those causes.

“This is not an easy effort to tackle for any school,” said Gorrell, “but our high school staff and administration are committed to this and we have made tremendous progress in three years.” Gorrell added that in the Fall of 2013, 60% of White or Asian, non-low income students (the national benchmark group used by EOS) were enrolled in at least one AP course. This compares to 18% of low income or students of color enrolled in AP at that same time. In the spring of 2016, 85% of White or Asian, non –low income 11th and 12th grade students registered for at least one AP class and 65% of low-income or students of color registered for at least one AP course. But for the 25% increase in benchmark group participation, the participation gap would have been eliminated. Efforts to increase information and access to AP courses has benefited all sub groups of students.

At the inaugural recognition event in Washington DC, local and state superintendents were recognized by White House Cabinet Secretary and My Brother’s Keeper Taskforce Chair Broderick Johnson at a dinner celebration, hosted by Equal Opportunity Schools and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

In celebrating the commitments – and recognizing those leaders who have already eliminated access gaps in their schools – Broderick Johnson, Assistant to the President, Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the My Brother's Keeper Task Force, the White House, said, "We applaud the tremendous progress Equal Opportunity Schools and all its partners have made to ignite the potential of thousands more traditionally underrepresented students across the country. The Lead Higher coalition exemplifies the values of My Brother's Keeper, forming innovative alliances to disrupt inequity and expand opportunity."

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