Education News

How One School is Making Every Student Take College-Level Classes

The move will make Westbury High a model AP school in Houston.


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HISD trustee Wanda Adams, Superintendent Terry Grier and other school leaders inside the auditorium at Westbury High School
HISD trustee Wanda Adams, Superintendent Terry Grier and other school leaders mark making Westbury High School a model “AP” campus in HISD. AP stands for Advanced Placement, which are college-level courses for high school students. Starting this year, every student at Westbury will take an AP course.

Several hundred teachers are packed inside the auditorium at Westbury High School.

They’re wearing new T-shirts and learning a new cheer.

Shonda Huery Hardman with HISD leads them.

Students Elicia Bonilla and Blanca Ojeda
Students Elicia Bonilla and Blanca Ojeda say they’re excited their high school Westbury will offer more AP courses to all students. They hope it will draw more students to the school and change its reputation.

“So you have on a very important shirt. And your shirt says, I am … “

“AP!” the crowd shouts back.

“I am … AP!”

“I am … AP!”

AP stands for Advanced Placement. They are college level courses for high school students. If students do well on an AP exam, they can potentially earn college credit.

High schools across Houston already offer these courses. But Westbury is taking it to the next level this school year.

Principal Jason Catchings says every student there is going to take college level classes.

“We’re saying, ‘This is the Westbury way — these are the things that we’re going to do. This is our expectation as a parent, a teacher, an administrator — everybody who goes here, here’s our expectation.’”

Catchings expects every freshman to take at least two courses to get ready for the tougher AP classes. Sophomores will take the same plus an official AP class.

Then students will take two more AP classes in both their junior and senior years.

It will make Westbury HISD’s model AP high school.

One Westbury student Elicia Bonilla took her first AP course last year.

She says it was tougher than she expected.

“At first I thought, ‘Ok it’s going to be AP it’s just going to be a little bit harder, not that big of a deal.’ Until I got into class and then I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh!’”

Elicia says she wants to take another AP class because it was worth it.

“Thanks to that class I learned how to work hard, learn how to make better study notes and study habits that can help me in the future.”

More students like Elicia are taking these classes in HISD.

Over the last five years, the number of students taking AP exams has almost doubled. That increase is even higher for Hispanic and African American students, with a 149 percent increase and 117 percent increase in participation, respectively.

“So I think what we’re doing is we’re really changing mindsets around who is supposed to go to college versus who’s not supposed to college and we’re making sure all kids have access to a rigorous education,” says Rick Cruz, an assistant Superintendent at HISD.

Cruz says there’s still room to grow.

“We’re just scratching the surface when it comes to what is possible within the district.  If we use AP potential as an indicator, this past year we met about 80 percent of the potential of kids who were enrolled in AP courses.”

He says except for four campuses every high school in HISD has students who should be passing their AP exam but aren’t.



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