With the advent of college credit programs, Huntsville ISD is making strides to expand its AP and Pre-AP programs to ensure all kids leave high school with a head start on their higher education.
“Starting the next school year, The College Board (a nonprofit organization which administers the AP and SAT tests) is radically revamping its Pre-AP program to get students who are more college and career ready to go into AP,” Director of Secondary Education Dr. Mina Schnitta said.
The College Board launched its Pre-AP program – a preparatory course for the college credit AP program – in the 2018-2019 school year with eight new courses for ninth grade. Huntsville ISD was among the second group to be selected for this program, and was chosen out of thousands of schools in the United States.
Changes under way for HISD’s Pre-AP program include an expansion of the Pre-AP program to sixth grade, as well as integrating courses such as theater and dance.
“It’s not enough just to offer more, it’s setting up structures and a bar that says ‘this is the expectation in Huntsville, you do these levels of courses and leave here with credentials that will get you into the university, trade school, or workforce of your choice,’” Huntsville ISD superintendent Dr. Scott Sheppard said.
Pre-AP teachers from several courses underwent intensive summer training for the new program. Part of which included creating equality in the AP program and ensuring opportunities for all children in the school district. Pre-AP teachers will continue to attend the Pre-AP Course Teacher Institute every three years to get up-to-date training.
Additionally, counselors are receiving training in placing a greater emphasis on educating parents and students as to the benefits of taking AP exams and what it will do for them. Counselors help parents navigate the different college credit programs to decide which will be the best fit for the student’s future plans.
One issue for Huntsville ISD is funding to provide the AP exams to all students.
Currently, HISD is working on removing barriers for students who are on free and reduced lunch, paying for them to take the AP exam out of title funds. Also non-gifted and talented students could also be added to the Pre-AP team by campus administration in an effort to create equality.
“I’m excited about the revamping of the Pre-AP program … I think that we have some work to do in reaching the place where our AP students reflect the demographic of our district, because that is not the case right now,” trustee Karin Olson-Williams said.
More than 90% of four year United States colleges and universities grant credit or placement for qualified AP exam scores.
“It allows children to bypass the entry level coursework ... makes them feel more confident and ready for college, and they retain their information better, so there are a lot of benefits to AP classes,” Schnitta said.
“It’s not enough to just put it in a course catalog and have them just sign up for it if they want to take it. (We need) to have parents who are educated enough to know that their kids will benefit from it, and to push their kids into the course.” Sheppard added. “We need to make sure that we go and get kids that don’t have that kind of support and pull them in … have offerings that would attract multiple numbers of kids from different backgrounds.”
“Pre-AP is not just about college anymore, it is about being ready for college and career, so that is their focus going into the future,” Schnitta added.