Spotlight on Success: Tips to Reach New Students

There are many exciting innovations that educators can use to make the AP Program accessible to more students. Spotlight on Success highlights schools and districts that have given careful thought to what will work in their communities and how they’ve reached students who aren’t obvious candidates. We know one size doesn’t fit all, and these examples aren’t the solution for every challenge. We hope these anecdotes can serve as information and inspiration, providing new ideas to educators who are leading the way in opening doors for young people.

Four editions of Spotlight on Success have been published. The following tables, one per edition, summarize the initiatives featured in each. To read the complete story, click on the PDF link for that edition and scroll to the corresponding page number listed in the table.

4th Edition Stories

Use the page number to find the selected initiative in Spotlight on Success – 4th Edition (.pdf/2.84MB).

School Initiative Key Strategies Page

East High School (Denver, Colo.)

Angels for AP Excellence
A student-driven outreach program, focusing on four groups of stakeholders: student, parents and the community, counselors, and teachers and administrators.

  • AP shadowing week for 10th-grade students
  • AP Parent Information night series in English and Spanish.
  • Partner system for students in class and in study groups


Bergenfield High School (Bergenfield, N.J.)

Increased support for first-time AP students and teachers
An effort to provide additional resources and opportunities to strengthen an AP program at all levels.

  • AP summer prep week for students
  • Professional development opportunities and mentoring for first-time AP teachers
  • Expectation that all students who take an AP course must take the exam


Boston Public Schools (Boston, Mass.)

Bilingual College Readiness Conference
A forum in Haitian and Spanish, to provide students and their families with an appreciation of AP courses and the related academic expectations and rewards.

  • Student/teacher panel
  • Workshops on enrolling in AP, applying and paying for college
  • Sponsors partner with the district


Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School (New Haven, Conn.)

AP Vertical Teams®
Teachers work cooperatively across grade levels to transform a course’s curriculum, ensuring students are prepared for rigorous course work.

  • AP English teachers revised the curriculum to introduce shorter, more digestible texts and add more analysis, close reading, and argumentation


North High School (Des Moines, Iowa)

Intervention models
An effort that focuses on shifting the culture about going to college.

  • Incorporating seminar classes to support literacy, time management, and study skills


Elizabeth Learning Center (Cudahy, Calif.)

AP interest forms
A policy of parent involvement from the beginning of the course ensures that students understand and stick to their commitment.

  • Students and parents sign a contract stating their awareness of the course rigor
  • Mandatory meeting with AP teacher prior to the course and summer homework


Federal Way School District (Federal Way, Wash.)

Automatic AP enrollment
A policy that creates an environment of encouragement by automatically placing students into the most rigorous courses.

  • AVID offered as an elective to as many students as possible, AVID strategies provided to as many non-AVID teachers as possible


Harding Charter Preparatory High School (Oklahoma City, Okla.)

Strong foundation in writing
An approach that focuses on writing as a key aspect of the curriculum across all AP courses.

  • Math students write a short paper describing how math is used in their chosen career field


New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School (New Orleans, La.)

Emphasis on how AP increases opportunities for success
An approach that encourages students and reinforces the value of college or careers after high school.

  • Student incentives
  • AP mentors
  • Emphasis on the experience of the class, not the grade or exam score


Washington High School (Phoenix, Ariz.)

Community outreach
An effort that focuses on engaging with parents and the community to foster continuous learning.

  • “Future Freshman Night”: eighth-graders learn what they need to know before entering high school
  • Students volunteer at local organizations
  • Electives boost academic work — gym class is paired with vocabulary flashcards to learn about fitness; choir class also uses literary analysis to explore lyrics



3rd Edition Stories

Use the page number to find the selected initiative in Spotlight on Success: 3rd Edition (.pdf/2.53MB).

School Initiative Key Strategies Page

BASIS Tucson (Tucson, Ariz.)

Peer support and leadership roles
An emphasis on time management and peer learning skills helps increase student responsibility and accountability.

  • All students keep a communication journal that serves as an academic planner
  • Students work collaboratively to monitor class
  • Expectations and daily assignments
  • Writing center


Bridgeport High School (Bridgeport, Wash.)

College in High School
This program offers college classes at the high school, helping students to be college-ready when they graduate.

  • Partnership with a community college
  • College Fridays: the whole school wears college-related items


Cumberland Valley School District (Mechanicsburg, Pa.)

Early algebra initiative
A strategy that has students complete Algebra I by the end of ninth grade allows for more advanced-level math and science courses in high school.

  • District engagement with parents, teachers, and students about college readiness
  • Restructured reading program for sixth- and seventh-graders to emphasize study and note-taking skills
  • AP training for teachers


Delaware Valley High School (Milford, Pa.)

AP Potential
Using this research-driven tool helps the school open the line of communication about AP between parents and AP teachers.

  • Using AP Potential helps strongly identify students who can perform at the AP level
  • Congratulatory letters sent to parents whose children have AP potential provide additional incentive for a student to learn more about the AP courses recommended to them


East Side High School (Newark, N.J.)

Teaching through inquiry
An emphasis on students’ strengths and interests allows teachers to engage their classes in active learning.

  • Innovative teacher preparation program (Newark-Montclair Urban Teaching Residency)
  • Vertical, content, and other specific planning teams


Morgan Park High School (Chicago, Ill.)

AP Expo
An AP information night allows students and parents to learn about the expectations of AP courses.

  • An AP expo allows students and parents to meet individually with AP teachers to learn specifics about AP classes
  • After-school tutoring and weekend programs


North Central High School (Spokane, Wash.)

“Academic press”
Pushing students to take more rigorous classes and a focus on long-term planning help students reach college readiness.

  • Multiple AP conferences and events are held at the school each year
  • A certified college and career readiness coordinator works out a long-term plan with each student on a registration form that outlines their college and career pathway


Rancho Verde High School (Moreno Valley, Calif.)

Collaborative teaming
Pairing AP U. S. History and AP English Language raises student awareness that knowledge is cross-curricular.

  • History and English are paired, reinforcing each other and making the courses more comprehensible
  • Students have access to double the teachers and teaching styles


Appoquinimink High School (Middletown, Del.)

Active recruitment
Teachers and current AP students recruit students for AP classes at this new school.

  • AP preview night
  • AP mentors
  • Schedules are built to ease the transition to AP


Corbett High School (Corbett, Ore.)

Student role models
Celebrating college-going and academic success helps community buy-in for an unusual system: teaching across topics and disciplines to a multiage group of students.

  • Pep rallies to celebrate students accepted into college
  • Field trips to visit area colleges and universities
  • All sixth- through eighth-grade teachers teach everything to their group of students



2nd Edition Stories

Use the page number to find the selected initiative in Spotlight on Success – 2nd Edition (.pdf/1.93MB).

School Initiative Key Strategies Page

Riverwood International Charter School (Sandy Springs, Ga.)

Pushing Underrepresented Students Higher (PUSH)
A program to strengthen awareness of the AP Program and identify areas where students need support.

  • AP Potential
  • AP night with personalized sessions for underrepresented students and their parents
  • AP summer camp and online reading support


San Pasqual High School (Escondido, Calif.)

AP Boot Camp
A program designed to develop students’ essential skills through experiential learning activities.

  • Focus on developing five essential skills: teamwork, communication, organization, reading, and problem solving
  • Specific hands-on learning activities


Eastside High School (Gainesville, Fla.)

One-Day Intro to AP
An early introduction to AP that builds a community atmosphere and parental involvement.

  • Minischedule at the One-Day Intro provides students with an AP experience, including interactive exercises and campus tours
  • Four in-school follow-up breakout sessions


Pflugerville High School (Pflugerville, Texas)

Ambassadors for AP
A program that has student ambassadors raise awareness about AP among students and parents.

  • Students hear about AP classes from their peers
  • Ambassadors’ T-shirts raise visibility on campus


Franklin High School (Portland, Oregon)

Advanced Scholar Program
A program that requires students to commit to taking at least four AP classes, or three AP classes and one dual-credit class.

  • Each student has a mentor they meet with twice a month
  • The program meets monthly as a group to discuss the college application process in detail


Meadowcreek High School (Norcross, Ga.)

Picture Books in the Secondary Classroom
A visual method for delving into the deeper meaning of text draws students in and makes difficult texts more accessible.

  • Students build a storyboard for selected text or illustrate a poem


Eleanor Roosevelt High School (Greenbelt, Md.)

Highly structured writing program
A system that assigns students in ninth, 10th and 11th grades essays similar to those found on the AP Exam, with grading that mirrors how the exams are scored.

  • Students have written at least six AP-comparable essays by the time they take an AP English class
  • All English teachers, even if they don’t teach AP classes, are encouraged to attend AP training sessions
  • An experienced AP teacher/writing coordinator works with all English teachers


Maine Department of Education

Maine Mentoring Program
A program that aims to give the needed professional development and ongoing help to new AP teachers and to schools trying to expand their AP program.

  • Subject-specific weekend workshop retreats for teachers
  • One-day exam preparation workshops a month before AP Exams, designed to help AP teachers make the exams less intimidating for their students
  • Continuing education units through IACET


Miami-Dade County Public Schools (Miami, Fl.)

AP Student Curriculum Review (APSCR)
A district-wide 5-hour end-of-year review that focuses on AP course content reviews, test-taking skills, and study strategies.

  • Free transportation to the review session
  • Students are encouraged to bring back what they learned to their individual schools and share tips and strategies with their peers


YES Prep Public Schools (Houston, Texas)

Campus-wide common assessment reading
A program that facilitates communication and collaboration among teachers and saves the school a great deal in external professional development costs.

  • Teachers get together every six weeks to plan, align, and compare curricula
  • Common assessments in Spanish, mathematics, social science, and English are given across all campuses
  • Teachers come together to read 19,000 exams in these subjects, giving a similar experience to the AP Reading



1st Edition Stories

Use the page number to find the selected initiative in Spotlight on Success: 1st Edition (.pdf/2.84MB).

School Initiative Key Strategies Page

Cesar E. Chavez High School (Delano, Calif.)

Prioritizing student support
A system of specialized supports sustains students as they encounter rigorous course work.

  • AP teachers lead after-school academic tutorials three times a week
  • Focus on writing skills, including a web-based tool to help students learn techniques for paraphrasing, summarizing, citing, and quoting
  • Peer tutoring


Cypress Bay High School (Weston, Fla.)

Building a pipeline to rigor
This program creates a pathway to AP success from the beginning of high school.

  • Common assessments at the end of each teaching unit, in both AP and non-AP courses, are used to evaluate how students are doing
  • Professional learning communities for teachers
  • All AP students must take the AP Exam: tutorials and practice exams are offered


City on a Hill (Roxbury, Mass.)

Creating a college-going culture
A culture of success is fostered through curriculum, instruction, and behavioral changes in the school.

  • 10-foot “COLLEGE” sign in the busiest site in the school
  • Focus on writing, higher-order thinking, and study skills
  • Teachers act as advisers and meet with students twice a day, and parents at least once a month


Renaissance High School (Detroit, Mich.)

Using curriculum alignment to create a pipeline to AP
Multiple strategies are used to align curricula, including treating honors classes as preparation for AP courses.

  • 11th- and 12th-grade teachers volunteer to teach ninth-grade classes
  • Focus on English courses
  • Rigorous honors classes prepare students for AP course work


Booker T. Washington High School (Tulsa, Okla.)

Data-Driven Decisions
An approach that uses student data to provide targeted support.

  • AP Potential
  • Data-collecting process and analysis is shared with all new teachers in a one-on-one orientation
  • Freshman Orientation/Making the Best of High School Count event