More students are taking college-level courses in high school, and discovering that they can meet the challenge. In Newsweek, Jay Mathews explains his challenge index, which ranks public schools based on what percentage of students take Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams. First on the list is an IB-focused school called International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, a Detroit suburb. Given the local population, and the photos of students in Newsweek, my bet is the school serves a lot of Iraqi-Americans, who know what challenge means.
Some elite private schools are moving away from AP courses, saying the test forces teachers to cover too much. Mathews quotes a superintendent named Mike Riley:
“Elitists will always try to find higher ground when it becomes apparent that others can scale their hill,” he says. “While AP’s standards, tests and curriculum have not changed, there are those who once thought the program was the gold standard but now see it as tarnished. What’s the only, and I underscore only, thing that has changed? More kids are included.”
Michael McKeown looked for high-challenge schools with challenging demographics and found Sweetwater Union High School District, on California’s Mexican border, which placed three of its nine high schools on the challenge index: Southwest High (93% minority, 35% subsidized lunch, 32% English Language Learners), Sweetwater High (92% minority, 58.6% subsidized lunch and 28% ELL), and Bonita Vista High (69.5% minority, 11.4 % subsidized lunch, 8.9% ELL).