IPSD 204 Lead Higher Initiative

Illinois will become the first state in the U.S. to partner with the 2016-17 Lead Higher Initiative: a consortium of several partners including Equal Opportunity Schools, which is designed to close equity gaps in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses for under-represented students.

“We’ve got two-thirds of a million students nation wide, who they identified could be a part of the AP/IB coursework,” said Louis Lee, Assistant Superintendent of High Schools.

The initiative will provide a $73,000 grant to District 204 to survey at least 90 percent of 9th through 12th graders and staff by early November.

The survey has been piloted in other districts and will produce an individual profile for every student, including their aspirations, favorite course subjects and test scores.

“Both districts that I spoke with talked about the fact that, while they thought they knew, the data showed things that they didn’t know. And they were able to identify institutional barriers that they didn’t know existed,” said Superintendent Karen Sullivan.

The goal is to identify low-income students and students of color, who may have previously been overlooked when making recommendations for AP and IB courses.

However, some board members are concerned that the district may be creating a disservice for students who aren’t ready.

“I think we also need to still maintain our appropriate judgment for all students, no matter what color they are, because I think when you push kids too early into honors or AP courses, you’re setting them up for failure,” said Board Member, Mark Rising.

Similarly, Board Member, Dr. Curry suggested that once implemented, the support process should be continually monitored and evaluated.

“So quality control, how are we checking, and getting a feedback loop so that we make sure that what we put in place will not only help us to acquire students into the program, but to retain them all the way through for four years doing multiple AP classes?” asked Curry.

The Lead Higher Initiative is only for the 2016-17 school year, but District 204 plans to use the data to make equity improvements moving forward.

District 204 will begin drafting a calendar for fully closing the AP and IB participation gap this summer.

Naperville News 17’s Rachel Pierson reports.

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