KANKAKEE — Increasing access to AP classes for African American boys will be a focus at Kankakee School District 111 next year through the initiative of a group the district partners with called Equal Opportunity Schools.
During Monday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Genevra Walters reviewed goals to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds taking AP courses.
Equal Opportunity Schools, a Seattle-based group that promotes a multi-phased model to ensure students, particularly low-income students and students of color, have access to rigorous academic high school courses.
The phases include access to opportunity, experiencing success, extending equity and sustaining equity. Walters said the district has partnered with EOS for four years and estimated it is in the third phase of this process.
The group decided earlier this year to focus efforts on African American boys.
While the group focuses on assisting minority students and students in poverty, its efforts have led to an increase in students taking AP courses across the board, Walters said.
The group also provides data about students’ individual strengths and interest in college regardless of their GPA.
“The data EOS collected says that if we can get our students to take at least one AP class, it’s like practicing for college,” Walters said. “So they take that one AP class, regardless of how they do, they actually understand the rigor that they’re going to experience freshman year.”
Walters said the district has increased the number of students taking AP classes overall by participating in EOS. One of the district’s aims for next year is to make sure students in those classes have the support they need — not just academically, but also making sure they feel like they belong there.
“Some end up passing the exam for college credit; some won’t,” Walters said. “But remember, the goal is for them to experience a highly rigorous class while they’re with us and provide the support so they know what they can expect when they get to college.”
District staff have a meeting scheduled Friday with an EOS representative to discuss the group’s equity and excellence initiative. An equity team will be tasked with rolling plans out over the next three to five years.
“One of the things that is really important is that we are not saying to take anything away from anyone in order to create equity,” Walters said. “What we are saying is give the students that are struggling the most the kind of support they need in order to meet the expectations that we have.”