ICCSD Expands AP Participation


Three years ago, 13 percent of students in AP classes were minorities. Since then, the Iowa City School District has been making an effort to increase that number, which has risen to 25 percent. City High has received national recognition for this dramatic increase. Even with this impressive increase, the community still feels there is more work to be done.

City High has taken various efforts to increase the minority population in AP courses. The main program for growth is ACHIEVE.

ACHIEVE was organized in 2014 at City High School in collaboration with Southeast Junior High. It is a group for minority students and students from typically underrepresented student groups to increase their academic opportunities. Many of the students in the program do not have the a lot of support at home. City High guidance counselor Linda Hoel is one of the main organizers of the program.

“Achieve is trying to take that extra step for them to support and motivate them to take more challenging courses,” said Hoel.

ACHIEVE focuses on advising, encouraging and supporting students with their academic planning by taking Advanced Placement and Honors courses.

“We wanted to make sure all students with potential were having support and encouragement,” said Hoel.

9th through 12th grade minority students are invited for membership based on their cumulative GPA and standardized testing scores. The school works with upper class students to become role models and mentors for incoming high schoolers. Ava Otoadese ‘18, an African American student, is one of the upper class mentors for the students in the ACHIEVE program.

“I think it is important for students to know there are a lot of benefits to taking AP classes,” said Otoadese.

Some of the benefits of taking AP classes include the appeal on college applications and scholarships. At some colleges, they are even accepted as credit.

This year, Mr. Bacon, principal of City High, contacted the AP teachers to get a list of students that they think have the potential to take AP classes. He then met with each student individually and discussed the opportunities.

“I made sure they understood that their teachers believe they can be successful in these classes and I want them to feel encouraged and believed in,” said Bacon.

Students also encourage incoming high schoolers to enroll in AP classes.

“[AP classes] are not just for the smart kids, but also for students who are motivated to take these classes,” said Otoadese. “Anyone has the capability to take AP classes.”

Along with the ACHIEVE program, individual teachers have been making efforts to increase the minority population. AP world history teacher Jason Schumann works to create an environment where all students feel equal.

“I try to foster an environment where we have discussions that cross the lines of gender, race, economic status, and religion,” said Schumann. “I try to present my content in a way that embraces all of those various perspectives.”

A big part of encouraging minority students to take AP classes and succeed in them is based on positive student-teacher relationships.

“Our staff is united in the understanding that it starts with positive relationship and I trust that our staff works hard on this,” said Bacon.

Although they have been working hard, the staff at City High recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done.

“While [the AP classes] absolutely have become more diverse, we still have quite a bit of work to do,” said Bacon. “We can’t get complacent, we must press forward and we have engaged in an organized effort.”

Students are noticing the efforts being made by the school. Elvis Mugisha ‘17 is an African American student enrolled in AP classes.

“When I first started [taking AP classes] I was the one black kid in there and it’s really increased over the years,” said Mugisha.  “It’s very good to see that a lot of minorities are taking these classes.”

Borey Chea ‘17, a student at City High from Cambodia, is currently enrolled in an AP class that has the most minorities she has experienced in an advanced course.

“It’s really refreshing to be in that class because I get to hear different perspectives on things and meet these wonderful people from very different backgrounds,” said Chea.

Although students are noticing the efforts, they still recognize that more work is needed. Jessica Sheffield ‘18 is an African American student

“I know when I was registering for classes at city, no one really told me about [AP classes], I had to seek them out myself,” said Sheffield.

There are still more goals that the school has not accomplished yet.

“I think we have earned this recognition but, again, I want to be clear that we have more work to do and I don’t want to say that we are satisfied with where we are,” said Bacon.