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Learn together, grow together Connecticut. Innovative promising practices

College and Career Readiness

Middletown Expands AP Participation

For the last three years there has been a focus on closing opportunity gaps at Middletown High School.  There was a significant racial disparity in participation in Advanced Placement (AP) and UCONN Early College Experience (ECE) courses. School and district leaders were keenly aware of these disparities, and the students were as well.  When students voiced their desire to change the narrative of Middletown High School, a true sense of urgency was created in the district to ensure that equitable opportunities for academic achievement were created for all students. Angelica Vargas, a student, summed up their sentiments: “I am aware of the societal labels that have been placed on me from the moment I was born. Those will never define my performance in rigorous classes.” With students and principal Colleen Weiner leading the work, Middletown High School’s first goal was to ensure that AP enrollment mirror the diversity of the school by including a larger percentage of Black and Latinx students and students of low socio-economic status.

Broaden Criteria for AP Consideration

Middletown High School partnered with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), an organization committed to ensuring “students of all backgrounds have equal access to America's most academically intense high school programs”, to redefine the metrics that identified students as ‘AP ready’.  With the support of EOS, all Middletown High students completed a survey in which they assessed their growth mindset, self-efficacy, academic progress, and future goals. In addition, students identified a ‘trusted adult’ with whom they could discuss their academic goals, ask questions about AP participation, and how they can take ownership of their own academic future. At the same time, teachers and staff took surveys about all of their students in which they assessed students’ readiness for AP participation. Teachers and staff were asked to not only consider students’ academic readiness, but their grit, ability to persevere and their potential for success if given the opportunity. Once survey results were collected, student leaders, wearing their t-shirts bearing the tagline ‘AP Looks Like Me’, celebrated at an assembly where an unprecedented number of students were invited to participate in AP and ECE classes. As a result, during the 2018-2019 school year, AP participation at Middletown High School increased by 45% overall, with a 107% increase in participation for Black students, 47% increase for Latinx students, and 81% for free or reduced price meal eligible students.

Provide Supports to Students and Teachers

Middletown High School wanted to not only provide access to AP courses, but to ensure that students felt prepared and supported taking more challenging courses. Prior to the 2018-2019 school year, all students had the opportunity to participate in an ‘AP Bootcamp’, Students and teachershad an access to support throughout the school week in which they could meet with a trusted teacher for academic support, and participate in homework help at the library one night a week. With equity at the heart of this work, teachers participated in monthly racial equity conversations to understand and consider how to dismantle systemic barriers that have traditionally closed some of MHS students out of AP and other rigorous courses.

There is still much work to be done to provide equitable opportunities for all students. However, Middletown High School is fortunate to have the complete support of the Board of Education and its superintendent. Superintendent Dr. Michael T. Conner regularly states that Middletown must be committed to “unlocking the potential in ALL students.” As for right now, Middletown High School’s focus is not on improving AP scores (that will come), but on providing the opportunity for more students to access more rigorous coursework. Recently graduated student, and AP student leader Stephen Hill, Jr. said, “everyone is going to have a future, why not set us up for the best one?”, and Middletown High School is committed to doing just that.

Summary

Topic: College and Career Readiness

Strategy:

  • Create a Sense of Urgency
  • Broaden Criteria for AP Consideration
  • Provide Supports to Students and Teachers

District: Middletown Public Schools

District Snapshot: 4,640 Students; 23 Schools/Programs; 43% eligible for free/reduced price meals; 14% students with disabilities; 4% English learners; 454.1 Full Time Equivalent Educators; $17,538 per pupil.

Contact Information: Michelle Gohagon, Director of Instruction Technology and Professional Development, (860) 638-1460, gohagonm@mpsct.org