The AP® Program Hallmarks: Identification, Outreach and Support

By Andrew Sharos

If you could dream a little about what a supportive, high-achieving, and inclusive AP program could look like, what would it look like?

Oftentimes, the AP program is a source of great pride for schools. Our communities value college credit, money saved, and enrollment in some of our country’s best universities. In some districts, however, AP data is overlooked because the number of students enrolling in AP classes and the number of students earning college credit are below state or national standards. So what contributes to a “turnaround” AP program and how can administrators continue to push towards positive student outcomes in their roles?

The answer lies in a more intense focus on three processes within the school: identification, outreach, and support .

How does the school identify potential AP students? How is data and student voice included in the process for recommending kids for AP? Many of our schools advocate for an open-enrollment policy, which is great. But beyond this, how are we targeting specific students who can be successful if given the nudge or chance? Identification has to be so much more than a teacher recommendation or standardized test scores. Each school could benefit from having a team to shepherd this process and analyze all of the available data. So many successful AP students bring much different qualities to the table.

Once students are targeted and identified, how does the school reach out to those students and pull them into the culture? A targeted outreach begins by identifying who the students’ trusted adults are in the building. The AP program and its merits has to be articulated to the parents. Prospective students need information. The program needs energy and momentum in these outreach activities. The more information we give people ahead of time, the more we build momentum for an inclusive culture.

Finally, if we are very specific in finding students with great AP potential, and we do everything we can to pull them into the culture, how do schools support the students once they enroll in the AP class? The journey is just beginning! Now, all of the stakeholders, from parents to administrators to the AP teachers themselves, have to surround the students with supportive initiatives. There are plenty of ways to offer study sessions, practice tests, and booster courses, but these ideas aren’t limited to just academic support. T-shirts, field trips, team building exercises, summer camps, and of course, food, helps build a fun and supportive environment. The support of our students is the heartbeat of any program.

A greater focus on identification, outreach and support of an AP program leads to a culture that breeds success, by whatever metric the school wants to measure it.

Culture is like the oxygen of the AP program. You cannot always see it, but without it, your program is dead.

For more on breathing life into your AP program, visit pick up a copy of the Amazon best-selling book, All 4s and 5s,  and check out the partnership opportunities with Marco Learning.

Andrew Sharos is an author, consultant, and keynote speaker who still works in a high school. For more thoughts on instructional methods in AP® and the award-winning turnaround story that made history in Andrew’s class, check out his book, “All 4s and 5s: A Guide to Teaching and Leading AP Programs.” 

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