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Making Advancements in Advanced Placement Classes at KIPP NYC College Prep

For the past two weeks, kids at KIPP NYC College Prep have been proving their college readiness through the school’s Advanced Placement program. This year more than 350 students sat for exams with many students taking more than one AP test. In all, more than 560 exams were taken in less than 10 days!

To learn more about the AP program, we spoke to Emily Meyer, AP Calculus Teacher, and Sam Routhier, AP World History Teacher.

How do you decide which AP courses to offer?

Emily: Several of our classes are offered because they are a challenging alternative to the standard courses we provide (e.g. AP World History, AP US History). Some of our classes are chosen because a student or teacher expressed a specific interest. For example, AP Music Theory and AP Studio Art were created because our arts teachers wanted to ensure our young dedicated artists and musicians were ready to pursue college-level courses. This year, AP Psychology was offered for the first time in response to tremendous student interest in our general psychology courses.

Sam: The KIPP Foundation also provides central leadership for creating AP curricula and connects teachers from our KIPP schools across the country. Within the history department, we are trying to find a way to offer AP Human Geography, and the science department is figuring out how to build AP Physics into the curriculum, so we are reaching out to other KIPP regions for ideas and advice. As the school grows, we are looking to give kids as many college-ready experiences and opportunities as possible.

How do you ensure our students are aware of all the options available?

Emily: Students learn about AP options in a few different ways. For some subjects, AP teachers present to “feeder” classes and describe the relevant AP courses to students. For example, AP Calculus and AP Statistics teachers go into the Algebra 2/Trigonometry and Pre-Calculus classes and encourage students to take these courses. Unsurprisingly, the most effective marketers for AP courses are often the students currently enrolled. Many students find out about interesting courses by talking to their friends who have already enjoyed the AP experience.

Sam: Students get an AP T-shirt when they take an AP course, and can wear this shirt as an alternative to the standard uniform shirt. This increases the exposure of our AP program. We use bulletin boards to showcase student work and offer incentives such as weighted GPAs and end-of-year trips. Overall, we have developed a college-going culture at KIPP-NYC College Prep, and thus AP courses are popular.

What supports are in place to help students choose the classes that are right for them?

Emily: Based on pre-requisites for AP courses (for example, successful completion of previous courses and teacher recommendations), students are given the option of taking the appropriate AP course. Students then choose their classes in consultation with their counselor. For students who are not initially recommended for AP courses, there is an appeal process, where they can request approval by their current teacher and the department head.

Sam: When we are not sure if a student is ready for the AP course, we use a 2-week summer session called “AP Bootcamp” to gauge a student’s preparation and suitability. The culture around AP Bootcamp is pretty positive. Students will plan summer programs around it so that they can get a jump on the upcoming school year, and it provides a great way for teachers to build relationships with their students.

What supports are in place to ensure students are successful in AP courses?

Emily: Once students are enrolled in an AP course, a lot of support is provided to ensure their success. All teachers are available for tutoring before school, after school, or during lunch. Some teachers treat this time like open office hours; others hold required sessions after school. Most teachers also place a great emphasis on teaching students how to use other resources available to them (e.g. textbooks, online resources, study groups with their peers). All AP courses administer at least two mock exams (on Saturdays or after school) in the spring, so that when students finally take the AP exam itself, they know exactly what to expect.

Tell us about the the future of the AP program at KIPP NYC College Prep.

Emily: In the seven years that we have offered AP courses, we’ve grown from two courses taken by 37 students to 16 courses taken by more than 350 students! Every year, we’ve added courses and greatly expanded the number of students taking AP classes. This year, more than 60% of our senior class has taken or is currently taking an AP course. Over the next few years, we aim to reach our goal of 75% of students passing an AP exam by the time they graduate.