Equal Opportunity Schools Program Achieves Great Success In Increasing PWCS High School Students’ Access To Advanced Coursework

This is an excerpt from an article that was published on Prince William County Public Schools‘ website on March 7, 2024.

The partnership between Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) and Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) is designed to increase all students’ access and opportunity to participate in rigorous academic environments such as Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE), Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and Cambridge courses.

“In fall 2022, EOS began working with 11 of the 13 PWCS high schools. In grades 10-11, 6,364 students were identified and placed on the outreach list for advanced courses. As a result, 3,581 students registered for at least one AICE, AP, or IB course for fall 2023, achieving an overall 9% increase in the participation rate change, a full 5 percentage points higher than the set target goal of 4%,” shared Dr. Charmelle Ackins, acting chief equity officer.

The program is open to all PWCS students, with a vested interest in targeting underrepresented students. It has been expanded this school year to include all 13 high schools. To provide a comprehensive understanding of students’ academic positioning and emotional connection to coursework, the high schools conducted surveys to evaluate student participation in advanced courses and measure their sense of inclusion with these classes. The survey also included questions to identify potential barriers to enrollment in advanced courses, such as availability of peer support, study partnerships, and previous invitations to enroll in such courses.

From their responses, the EOS program generated insight cards to uncover students’ college and career aspirations, concerns and fears regarding taking advanced courses, identified trusted adults at the school, and more. With this understanding of students’ interests, goals, and challenges, educators can better provide the resources students need to be successful.

Additionally, students were asked to name at least one adult at the school they trust and/or can go to for study support. The role of the “trusted adult” in the program is an adult in the building the student is comfortable talking to and who is familiar with the student’s profile from their survey responses. The “trusted adult” talks to the student to build a relationship and have conversations with the student to explore what advanced courses interest them and will consider registering for in the upcoming school year. Once enrolled in an advanced course, the “trusted adult” continues to have encouraging conversations with the student to ensure they realize their full potential.

When asked why it was important to have the opportunity to take advanced courses, Betsabe Cravioto Ambriz, a junior at Freedom High School, shared, “Taking advanced classes in your field of interest helps you get an understanding of what you can expect in the future and as I see it, it is a chance to know if this is the field you want to pursue in life.”

Salma Kamal, a junior at C.D. Hylton High School, highlighted the financial benefit of earning college credits in high school, “I believe that this will give me the opportunity to have a better college experience after I graduate because AP courses challenge you and help you develop a deeper understanding of different subjects.”

Jayden Adigwe, senior at Unity Reed High taking IB/AP classes for the first time this year, reflected on his experience, “I really don’t know why I didn’t take advanced classes before this year, I just never really heard about them. Or maybe I did but I never got involved. Last year as a junior, I rose up enough in my classes that my teachers talked to me and said I should be in IB. In my IB classes, I have to be more strategic about my time and more thoughtful about what I’m learning, but I know I’m getting a better understanding of what is coming in the future. I’m learning time management and better teamwork and I really like that.”

Read the full article here.