Education

AP for All

West High Senior Removing Barriers

Breanna Olaveson Mar 12, 2018

When Annelisa Kingsbury Lee started taking Advanced Placement classes at West High School in Salt Lake City during her freshman and sophomore years, she noticed something.

“I looked around and saw that there was a difference between the people in my AP classes and the people in the school as a whole, and I wondered how many capable students were excluded from advanced coursework by factors out of their control,” she says.

As she later learned, there were a lot. While low-income students make up more than 66 percent of the West High student population, they comprise only about 25 percent of AP students. Kingsbury Lee began surveying her peers about their perception of AP classes. Many didn’t even understand what an AP class was or that it could later save them money on tuition by providing college credits.

Encouragingly, 83 percent of the students Kingsbury Lee surveyed said they would be interested in taking AP classes if they had the right support. This gave her an idea — an idea that is already changing lives.

AP for All

“I’ve been working with West High’s administration and community to start the AP for All program since my sophomore year,” says Kingsbury Lee, now a high school senior. “West High has been steadily working to increase the accessibility of AP classes to minority and low-income students.”

The new AP for All program aims to enable every student at West High to succeed in an AP class by subsidizing the cost of the end-of-term AP test. While the tests typically cost $94, West High hopes to subsidize them so students only pay $15. Funds raised by the organization will also help cover teacher training, textbooks and other costs.

The program also provides free tutors to all students. These tutors are other students at West High who have succeeded in an AP class and volunteer their time to help. 

Set for Success

Though the program is still in its pilot phase, West High has a long history with AP courses. The school has offered them since the 1950s. Most years, 75 to 80 percent of students pass their AP exams; the national average is somewhere around 57 percent.

Currently the school offers 22 AP classes, including U.S. Government, English Literature, Spanish, French, German, Chinese, Calculus, Statistics, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science, Biology, Psychology, U.S. History, Art History, Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, Human Geography, Music Theory, Art, and Computer Science.

An Investment in the Future

Everyone who participates in AP for All is making a good investment. Students earn the same number of college credits from passing the $94 AP exam — or, if funds can be raised, $15 — as they would from a semester- or even year-long course at a university. If a student earned those same credits at the University of Utah instead of in an AP class, they would cost anywhere from $650 to $1,600.

To donate to the AP for All program, visit give.saltlakeeducationfoundation.org. Enter the gift amount and from the “Designation” menu select “Intended for Specific School.” Choose “Add Donation,” then select “West High School” from the menu and under “Specific Program,” enter “AP Success Program.” All donations are greatly appreciated.

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