Maziar Zarea an 11th grade student at Westside High School in Briar Forest hopes to score high on his Advanced Placement Exam this year. The AP exam aims to prepare kids for academic life in college.
"It sets you apart from everyone else, and it gives you a little academic edge above everyone else. It really is I think gonna make a difference when I apply to colleges, and I’m gonna possibly be ahead of other students that come in."
Zarea says that while these courses can be more challenging than regular classes the pay-off down the line is worth it.
"My teachers’ stress this all the time 'you know take it seriously' and do the best I can because these colleges are really serious and we’re trying to all make it and get where we wanna be in life."
HISD began increasing college prep classes two years ago. Nearly every high school now offers 15 or more AP classes. Now the latest numbers show that making this course more widely available to students and encouraging them to push themselves is actually working.
Kids need to get a score of 3 or higher in their exams for AP to count towards college credit. HISD Superintendent Terry Grier has seen the number of kids achieving this grow by 35% since 2009.
"One of the strategies that we’ve implemented is to really push courses like advance placement. And to see the type of improvements and increase in not just student participation but in terms of how many kids are actually doing well — it’s just been very rewarding."
A recent College Board study indicated that 60% of students with potential to pass the AP exams never got that chance. This is particularly apparent for Hispanic and African American students, something which Grier particularly focused on.
"Many of our high schools, particularly that served large numbers of minority students either offered no AP courses or one AP course, or maybe three, but now all are required to offer fifteen. So all students now can have access to really rigorous courses in spite of where they may or may not live."
As the numbers of students taking these courses adds up so do the offers of scholarships. Last year the amount offered was nearly 130 million, up from 51 million in 2009. Next on the agenda for Grier and HISD is working on encouraging more students to take these pre-college courses and seeing those numbers continue to grow.