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Chicago named "district of the year" for AP test success

Chicago Public Schools was named “district of the year” today by the College Board for boosting the number of minority kids taking and passing tough Advanced Placement exams.

Many high schools wanting to tackle achievement gaps and get more kids ready for college have pushed a greater number of students—not just top performers—into rigorous Advanced Placement classes.

It says Chicago leads big-city school districts in that assignment. A medium sized district and small district were also honored.

“There’s no other district in the U.S. that has achieved a larger increase in the number of minority students succeeding on the AP [than Chicago],” said Trevor Packer, vice president of the College Board. The College Board administers the AP tests.

The number of black, Latino, and Native American students in Chicago Public Schools who scored well enough to get college credit increased by 718 students from 2008 to 2010, according to the Board. That means about 19 percent of those minority students who took the exam earned a score of 3 or better, up from 16 percent in 2008.

The figures include both charter school students and those in traditional public schools.

The Board also calculates that overall student participation in the AP exams increased from 10,994 students to 13,252 during those two years. Overall pass rates are now at 30 percent.

Packer says letting more kids—not just the elite—into college-level Advanced Placement classes can mean lower pass rates.

“But there are a few districts like Chicago that have bucked the trend and expanded access while improving results," he said.

Packer also said the advances put more students on a path to enroll in and complete college.

“We want to ensure that historical inequities are reversed. There are tens of thousands of minority students who have the exact same statistical likelihood of success in AP as the white students and the Asian students that have dominated these classrooms historically," he said.

The College Board also named 27 Illinois districts to its “honor roll” for similar successes. They include Lincoln-Way, Maine Township, and District #300 in Carpentersville. A complete list of honor roll districts is available here.

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