Fenton Named National AP District of the Year
Wood Dale is proud of its students who continue to shatter the ceiling of academic excellence.
Fenton High School District 100 was named a nationwide leader for increasing access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses and scores on AP exams by the board that administers the tests. The national College Board named Fenton AP District of the Year at a student assembly today attended by state dignitaries, students and staff. The award, given to only three school districts nationwide –large, medium and small – means the school district has increased access to AP classes for students of color and low income and has also increased the number of students who pass AP exams.
“This is a celebration of equity and determination,” said Superintendent James Ongtengco. “It shows that students believe in themselves, challenge themselves, work hard and trust teachers to guide them through the process,” he said.
More than a third of students are enrolled in at least one of the 24 AP courses offered at Fenton. The number of students who took AP exams grew from 253 to 330 in three years, or 30%. This is despite changing demographics: 51 percent of students are low-income; there’s growing diversity and an increase in the number of students whose primary language is not English. The percentage of AP students who are African American and Latino grew from 40% to 49% over three years. And, the percentage of African Americans and Latino students who received a 3 or more on an AP test grew from 57% to 61% in three years.
The mission at Fenton to ensure students of all backgrounds have equal access to the school’s AP courses began five years ago when the District partnered with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS). EOS helped Fenton identify students who showed promise and commitment – focusing on low-income and students of color – and who had the potential but were missing out on AP classes. Fenton conducted a survey of students measuring such things as interest in upper level courses, education goals, learning mindset and career interests, and combined that with an analysis of test scores to develop a baseball card of sorts on students.
“We received a lot of data that challenged some of our practices and beliefs,” said Kate Ward, Division Leader, English, Social Studies, World Languages, ESL. For example, some AP classes used to involve summer homework before fall school start. “But some students need to work all summer or they go to the Mexico for the summer and others didn’t have Internet at home,” said Ward. So, some classes at Fenton removed that barrier, which had prevented some students from enrolling in an AP class.
Students were also asked to identify a trusted adult in a teacher, coach or administrator. Those trusted adults then sought out students to talk about the process and answer any questions. The result is that many more students, including students of color and low-income are now taking AP classes, excelling and passing the AP test. The fear was that this push would water down the curriculum but just the opposite happened.
“Our students rose to the challenge and in fact this program raised the bar and made our entire curriculum more rigorous,” said Fenton Principal and Assistant Superintendent Jovan Lazarevic.
Clint Porter, a veteran AP teacher, said there used to be about 15 students in his AP Calculus class and now there are about 80. “There were students who were on the sidelines; they didn’t see themselves in an AP class. But they just needed an extra nudge,” said Porter.
“It’s amazing to have a national award validate and affirm the hard work that Fenton is doing,” said Board President Paul Wedemann.