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Massachusetts: Somerville Public Schools

After implementing a campaign encouraging students to meet with their counselors and to consider taking an AP course, Somerville Public Schools saw the number of its students enrolled in AP classes increase 50% in just one year. Seventy-one percent of the district’s students qualify for free and reduced-price meals, so Somerville has committed to covering 85% to 90% of the cost of AP Exams, too (with help from the national nonprofit Mass Insight Education).

“The secret to our growth is that we encouraged students to push themselves and also helped them determine which courses were right for them,” said Superintendent Mary Skipper. “But our success just wouldn’t be possible without our counselors and dedicated AP teachers, who work so hard to help all students in Somerville reach their potential.”

California: Lynwood Unified School District

In the last several years, Lynwood USD has seen significant growth in AP participation and success. The number of AP Exam takers increased from 303 in 2010 to 779 in 2016, and the percentage of students earning a score of 3 or higher on an AP Exam increased from 20% to 25.4%.

District leaders attribute this growth to the implementation of programs and policies to foster a culture that ensures students are prepared to succeed in college and beyond. Initiatives include doing away with prerequisites and tracking so that any student can enroll in advanced coursework; providing teacher training to support AP students; offering free AP summer camps and additional support outside school hours; offering access to online tutoring courses; and allocating district funds to cover the cost of AP Exams for students.

About 96% of the district’s students come from low-income households; 92% of them said they plan to attend a four-year college after graduation; and 75% of those students would be the first in their families to do so.

“Our culture holds high expectations for every student—we believe every child can achieve at high levels with the right support,” Lynwood Unified Superintendent Paul Gothold said. “The achievements of our students and teachers show we are on the right track to ensuring students leave our campus ready to excel in any path they choose to pursue. At the end of the day, this is our ultimate mission.”