More HISD Students Taking, Passing Advanced Courses

More Houston high school students than ever are taking and passing Advanced Placement courses and exams that could give them a head start in college. That's the word from district officials who say they're trying to create what they call a "college-bound culture" within HISD. Houston Public Radio's Jack Williams reports.

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Advanced Placement courses aren't required in high school, but are encouraged as a way for students to challenge themselves with more demanding college-level classes. The latest numbers from HISD seem to indicate that students here are getting that message, with a record number taking and passing AP exams in May, up 9-percent from 2005. At Bellaire High School, students passed more than 1800 AP exams this year, by far the most in the district. This is principal Tim Salem.

"Providing a college-bound culture in a school, you must rely on those who far outnumber you and here at Bellaire High School, the teenagers far-outnumber the adults. So we look to them to help us have that culture that reminds us on a daily basis that we are here for success and we are here for a step to post-high school education."

Since 2001, HISD has seen a 115-percent increase in the number of AP exams taken and a 78-percent jump in the number of those exams that have been passed. Bellaire senior Hope Carter has been taking AP classes since her sophomore year and is enrolled in four advanced courses this school year.

"I've talked to my older siblings and they say that these are the kind of things that they were learning when they got to college and I'm excited to have the advantage that they didn't have to be learning them now so when I get to college it won't be such a big shock to me."

HISD has an open Advanced Placement policy, which allows any student to sign-up for the classes. Parent Liz Koontz's daughter is a senior at Bellaire and has taken a number of AP classes. She says colleges are looking for students who are going to be able to handle tougher courses.

"They don't want to spend their time on a freshman who's going to drop-out as a sophomore. AP courses allows a college to look at what they've done in high school and gauge whether that child will stay at that college, if it's rigorous college, for four years."

Superintendent Dr. Abe Saavedra says HISD won't use the "urban district" excuse for academic achievment.

"In Houston, Texas regardless of the circumstances of the individual there is an opportunity to go on to college and that is what this college culture is all about it not only advocating, indoctrinating and convincing people that that's possible, but showing the results, which is what we have today."

Creating the college-bound culture hasn't been easy. Despite the increases this year, 9 HISD high school campuses actually saw a decrease in the number of passing AP exams. You can find out more about the latest numbers through a link on our website, KUHF.org.

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