The Education Innovator #34
Volume II
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The Education Innovator
 September 13, 2004 • Number 34
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What's inside...
Advanced Placement Program in Bellevue, Washington
What's New
Report by Caroline Hoxby shows that students at charter schools outperform their peers; Heritage Foundation paper says that more information on choice is available to parents; the Thomas B. Fordham Institute launches a new online publication on education reform; the National Charter School Clearinghouse develops the first Charter School Service Directory; Denver Arts and Technology Academy opens its new facility; educational resources on Sept. 11 are available on the FREE website; and the National Museum of the American Indian will open its doors in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21.
Innovations in the News
Latino participation in Advanced Placement classes reached a six-year high in New Mexico, plus more information on Advanced Placement, charter schools, and homeschooling.

Advanced Placement Is for Everyone in Bellevue, Washington
In the late spring heat, while many other students longingly gaze out an open window and daydream about summer adventures to come, a student sits anxiously in a quiet room with 20 or so other like-minded students and waits for the Advanced Placement (AP) test proctor to finish up his lecture on the proper way to bubble in answers on the electronic form and utter "you may now begin." Though she is nervous about the difficulty of the questions that lay within her test booklet, she has a quiet confidence that she can do this. She has been in the highest-level classes since the sixth grade, has earned accolades from all of her teachers, and is among the top 10 students in her class. After years of strenuous academic workloads, she knows she is prepared and is not about to let a three-hour exam get in her way.

All across the country, this is the profile of a typical AP student: consistently high achieving with a history of advanced course work and acknowledged as a member of the school's academic elite. However, at five high schools in Bellevue, Washington, all students from every background and academic level are signing up for AP classes and excelling on the College Board-prepared exams. The schools in this district encourage all students, including special education students and students for whom English is a second language, to take any of the district's 26 offered AP classes in their sophomore through senior years. Furthermore, the schools also require that if a student signs up for an AP course, he or she must also take the end-of-year AP exam.

In fact, the district's "common AP curriculum" is largely based around the goal of channeling students into these advanced courses, which also include the International Baccalaureate (IB)—another program of similar rigor that awards a world-recognized diploma and can count for college credit. As Bellevue Superintendent Michael Riley proudly notes, "Our math curriculum developer likes to say, 'We are establishing two math tracks in Bellevue: One leads to AP Calculus, the other to AP Statistics.'"

A large part of the curriculum strategy involves careful attention to district students from the first day they enter one of the area's 16 schools. AP preparation begins in kindergarten, according to school district officials, and usually continues through to high school graduation. Teachers monitor student classroom performance, as well as state and national test scores, to determine, as soon as possible, which students will require assistance to successfully participate in advanced coursework.

Bellevue students are not the only ones receiving extra attention to foster high achievement. The district's teachers also engage in rigorous training to prepare them to give the best instruction possible to the steady stream of students entering AP classes. All teachers, in grade levels K-12, have the opportunity to take training courses in AP teaching strategies and grading standards, even if they are not currently teaching an AP course.

This commitment to grooming students of all academic capabilities to take on advanced courses has had measurable results. The Bellevue requirement that AP students take the AP exam has led to 90 percent of Bellevue students taking the final AP test, which, if passed, can make a student eligible to receive college credit. From 1996 to the present, AP/IB test-taking rates in Bellevue have increased by 1,000 percent. The number of students taking the tests went from 174 to 1,551, and, as of 2003, a total of 3,178 AP and IB exams have been administered. Not only do Bellevue students take the exams, they excel at them: The district's students have a pass rate of 65 percent.

At Interlake High School, which lists the International Baccalaureate as a special offering, for example, only 11 IB exams were taken in 1997, compared to 265 in 2003 (IB Diploma Programme [DP] students typically take six exams in the required subjects at the end of the two-year program, rather than at the end of the course as with AP exams).

Another indicator of how this AP-driven curriculum keeps students involved and interested is the district's dropout rate, which has been cut in half from 18 percent to 9 percent since the district's AP program began.

In a recent Newsweek list of "America's Best High Schools," five Bellevue high schools were ranked in the top 100, with three listed in the top 20 schools in the nation. The ranking was based on the number of AP and IB tests given in the school and the percentage of students who take them.

The Office of Innovation and Improvement administers two grant programs that support the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. The Advanced Placement Incentive Program awards funds to state and local educational agencies and to national nonprofit educational organizations with expertise in AP to develop, expand, and enhance these advanced programs in low-income schools. The Advanced Placement Test Fee Program makes awards to states to cover part or all of the cost of AP and IB test fees for low-income students. The Washington Department of Education has received an AP Incentive grant.

U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige has expressed his and President Bush's goal of dramatically expanding the number of students prepared to succeed in advanced classes and in college through Advanced Placement courses. The president has proposed a $28 million increase for the Advanced Placement program authorized in No Child Left Behind, bringing spending to nearly $52 million per year. The increased funding will help ensure that teachers in low-income schools are well trained to teach AP and IB courses.

Resources: Note: The featured program is an example of one school district's educational approach and is given to help schools implement the provisions of No Child Left Behind. The program described is innovative, but does not necessarily have evidence of general effectiveness from a rigorous evaluation. The success of the program may not be replicable, depending on unique conditions in differing locations.


What's New
Report Shows Charter School Students Outperform Their Peers
A new report download files PDF (194K) by Harvard University economics professor Caroline Hoxby shows that students at charter schools outperform their peers at geographically close and demographically similar public schools. (Sept. 8)

More Information Is Available to Parents
The Heritage Foundation finds that, armed with information, parents are in a better position to choose their child's school and get extra help. Much of the information has been made available through projects supported by OII grants, such as, and through innovative programs, such as those of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is featured in OII's book, Creating Strong Supplemental Educational Services Programs. (Sept. 3)

New Fordham Institute Publication
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute has launched Fwd: Arresting Insights in Education, which is a series of essays, short studies, and articles related to K-12 education reform. The first issue features the study, "Where Do Public School Teachers Send Their Kids to School?" (Sept. 7)

National Charter School Clearinghouse School Service Directory
The National Charter School Clearinghouse has developed the first Charter School Service Directory, an online yellow pages for the 3,000 charter schools across the nation that are serving 700,000 students. (Sept. 9)

Denver Arts and Technology Academy Charter School
The new state-of-the-art Denver Arts and Technology Academy will open September 14. It was the first school to be granted a 30-year charter, and its enrollment has tripled since it was started in 2000. The school has also met or exceeded state academic standards. (Sept. 8)

Free September 11th Educational Resources
Educational resources to remember and study the events of September 11, 2001, are available on the FREE website. (Sept. 7)

National Museum of the American Indian to Open Soon
The National Museum of the American Indian will open its doors in Washington, D.C., on September 21. The museum honors the history and culture of Native Americans from North, Central, and South America. The new museum is located across the street from the U.S. Department of Education headquarters building. (Sept. 8)


Innovations in the News

Advanced Placement
Latino participation in Advanced Placement classes in New Mexico reached a six-year high in 2004, and the number of Latinos earning college credit for taking the advanced courses grew by 28 percent. [More-KRQE] (Sept. 7)

According to statistics released by the College Board, more than 9,500 Missouri seniors who graduated in 2004 took at least one Advanced Placement exam, an increase of 8 percent over 2003. [More-Info Zine] (Sept.1)

There was an 11 percent increase in both the number of Advanced Placement students and the number of tests taken in Texas schools last school year. An Advanced Placement incentive program established by the legislature may be partly responsible for the increased interest in the test, officials said. Texas schools receive AP Incentive Program grants from OII. [More-KWTX] (Sept. 8)

AP course taking has also gone up in Iowa and Illinois. In addition to classroom study, Iowa offers the Iowa Online AP Academy through the University of Iowa. The federally funded program offers AP courses to public and private schools over the Internet and the Iowa Communications Network. [More-QC Times] (Sept. 1)

Charter Schools
The student loan company Sallie Mae has announced that it is awarding $28 million to District of Columbia charter schools to help them acquire or lease facilities and increase student enrollment. [More-WJLA] (Sept. 8)

California's charter schools are making greater student achievement gains compared to their non-charter counterparts, according to an analysis of the 2004 Academic Performance Index (API). In addition, the average growth of student achievement for charter schools nearly doubled the growth of their non-charter school counterparts. [More-Business Wire] (Sept. 7)

In Minnesota, charter schools traditionally stayed close to the inner city or were far out-state. Now seven new suburban charter schools are opening, and hundreds of middle class students have enrolled. [More-Star Tribune] (Sept. 5)

In the first attempts to analyze the performance of Hawaii's charter schools, the State Department of Education and the Hawaii Educational Policy Center have found that charter school students are doing as well as or better than students at traditional public schools on the state's proficiency tests. [More-Honolulu Advertiser] (Sept. 3)

The estimated number of K-12 children being educated at home in the U.S. increased by 29 percent between 1999 and 2003, growing to 1.1 million students and 2.2 percent of the school-aged population, according to a new study by the National Center for Education Statistics. [More-Christian Examiner] (Sept. 2004)

Religious homeschooling parents in New York State and New England believe that responsibility for education belongs to the parents. One parent, who is a former public school teacher, has advocated for parents' homeschooling rights. [More-Bennington Banner] (Sept. 8)

The Hui Malama Learning Center in Hawaii offers an outdoor education program to homeschooled students in grades six-eight. The program incorporates literature, writing, field trips, presentations by cultural and environmental experts, and community service in core subjects. Maui News (Sept. 6)


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Last Modified: 08/21/2008