Over the past several years, Alhambra High School has been implementing some drastic, yet sensible changes to its Advanced Placement system. Principal Duane Russell, along with other administrators and staff members, noticed some alarming trends when it came to AP student involvement, such as an ideology tat only certain students were qualified and capable of succeeding in AP classes. Because of this, a large number of determined students were left out of consideration to participate in these classes, particularly students of a minority race. In recognizing this negative trend, AHS was determined to change their approach to the AP system and shift their though process in terms of what they view as the prototypical AP student. In an attempt to resolve the issue, AHS is now implementing an open enrollment policy for AP classes. In other words, any student can take AP classes if they desire without going through the archaic model of being validated by grades and recommendations. Thus far, this innovative open enrollment system has been wildly successful and has afforded many students the opportunity for higher academic achievement than ever before.
To reward AHS for their efforts, The Education Trust featured AHS in a piece titled “Systems For Success: Thinking Beyond Access to AP.” This article highlighted some key facts when it comes to AHS’ new approach to AP enrollment and discussed what other schools can learn from AHS. The following is from The Education Trust’s official press release:
Alhambra High School is a neighborhood high school in Los Angeles County that serves 2,512 students — half of the students are Latino (51 percent) and nearly three-fourths (72 percent) qualify for free-or reduced-priced lunch. Alhambra’s AP access rate — the percentage of students taking at least one AP exam — is 35 percent, which is 10 percentage points greater than the national average. And its success rate — the percentage of test-takers who pass an exam — is 68 percent, which is 1.2 times the national average.
Alhambra boasts a school culture that promotes successful AP experiences for both students and teachers. According to Principal Duane Russell, “AP is rigorous for the teachers, just like it is for the kids.” This prompted Russell to create systematic support for teachers, including mentor teachers, attendance to AP Summer Institute by the College Board, and a master schedule to manage all the additional classes, student requests, tutoring, and teachers’ schedules. This system ensured that the school’s programs for the AP students and teachers didn’t conflict with each other, making it easier to attend and participate.