A Wakefield Exemplary Project
What Is Advanced Placement® (AP)?
The Advanced Placement® Program (AP), sponsored by the College Board (i.e, “the SAT people”) offers high school students the opportunity to take college-level courses in high school and receive credit, advanced placement, or both when they enter college. Currently, AP exams are offered in 36 subjects.When the Advanced Placement (AP) Program began in 1955, 1,229 students took AP exams. In 2014, over 2.3 million students took more than 4.1 million exams, and over 2,000 universities worldwide use the AP Program to some extent.
What Is The Wakefield High School Advanced Placement® (AP) Network?
Stemming from Wakefield’s commitment to the notion that AP courses are designed for prepared students and not just “gifted” students, the Wakefield AP Network began as an Exemplary Project approved by the Arlington County School Board in the spring of 2004. The Wakefield Advanced Placement Network is a county-wide program, meaning that students who reside in Arlington but who live outside of Wakefield’s attendance zone can request an academic transfer to participate in the program.
Once enrolled at Wakefield, a student’s participation in the AP Network can begin as early as ninth grade. Freshman can enroll in AP World History or other Pre-AP intensified classes that are offered in the 9th grade Foundation program. As part of their freshman experience, students work with their counselors to create a four-year academic plan. This plan is tailored to the students’ strengths and areas of interest. All students are encouraged to take as rigorous a course load as possible to best prepare them for their future.
Many of these challenging courses are taught as AP courses, of which Wakefield offers 30 of the 38 AP courses authorized by the College Board. As one of the first public high schools in the United States to open enrollment in AP courses to all students, Wakefield recognized the need to support students as they took on the academic and personal challenges that these courses present. The AP Network was created to provide this support and continues to do so through a variety of academic and counseling initiatives, including the following:
- The Wakefield AP Summer Bridge Program – a 4-day series of workshops and class sessions for AP students to attend in August to better prepare them for AP courses they will be taking in the coming school year.
- AP Consult – a class that meets every day during 3rd period to provide students with access to AP content teachers and time to complete their AP assignments.
- Collaboration with Wakefield’s Cohort for Minority Males and United Minority Girls programs to address the achievement gap between white and non-white students.
- Faculty participation in AP vertical team training and AP content course training at College Board-sponsored events.
- Faculty identification and recruitment of students, Grades 8 through 12, who have the potential to succeed in advanced, intensified, and AP level courses.
- Faculty-conducted workshops and evening presentations that explain the advantages of intensified and AP classes.
For the past decade, the faculty and administrative staff have worked to make the goals of this school-wide initiative a reality. During this time, enrollment in AP courses at Wakefield has increased by 73% (264 to 456), the number of AP exams taken has increased 84% (473 to 872), and the passing rate for exams taken at Wakefield has increased from 51% to 54%. Additionally, the increase in AP enrollment has been marked by commensurate increases in participation across all ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
The AP Network’s innovative approach quickly drew the attention of both the education community and community. In 2006, the College Board recognized Wakefield as one of three high schools in the United States worthy of its Inspiration Award, for its “exemplary work in improving the academic environment and helping students achieve the promise of higher education…despite the social, cultural, and economic barriers that stand in the way of their students”. Then, in June 2007, Newsweek magazine profiled Doris Jackson, Wakefield’s then-principal, in an article entitled, “The Principal Principle,” for her stewardship of “the nationally acclaimed revitalization of her mostly minority high school.” Since that time, the steady growth and increasing diversity of the AP Network has consistently earned Wakefield top regional rankings in The Washington Post’s Challenge Index, a measure of the degree to which high schools both encourage and support their students’ success in AP and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. This first decade of experimentation and success now stands as the foundation from which the AP Network will draw inspiration to improve existing programs and develop new initiatives to better meet the needs of Wakefield students.