San Benito High School District was recently notified that it is one of 17 districts in California and among just 250 in the nation and Canada named to the 10th annual AP District Honor Roll for simultaneously achieving increases in access to Advanced Placement courses for a broader number of students while maintaining or improving the rate at which students earned scores of 3 or higher on an AP exam.
According to a statement from CollegeBoard, which is in charge of AP testing, the honor roll recognizes school districts that “are committed to expanding the availability of AP courses among prepared and motivated students of all backgrounds.”
The Advanced Placement program at SBHS offers college-level courses and exams that provide an opportunity for students to earn college credit, develop time management and critical thinking skills and prepare for college-level work. An increase in the availability of courses has allowed enrollment in AP courses to jump by nearly 400 students in the past six years, leading to a subsequent increase in the number of students taking the exams that can earn college credits while still in high school.
More than 1 in 4 SBHS students (803) is enrolled in an AP course this year, and the school’s nearly 70 percent AP exam pass rate in 2018-19 outperformed both the state and global rates for the third consecutive year.
SBHS Mathematics Department Chairman Dan Quinn said not just the entire school, but the community should take pride in the Advanced Placement Honor Roll accomplishment.
“All faculty and staff have a hand in creating a culture promoting AP achievement and learning in general at SBHS,” he said. “The idea that AP tracks the performances of all AP participating schools world-wide and that San Benito High School is one of a select few high schools that have increased participation in college level courses while maintaining (or increasing) the quality of results over a period of three years is astounding. I would imagine that SBHS is actually in the top 1 percent of all schools nationwide according to this method of measurement, and I feel honored to be a part of the process that helped earn this distinction.”
Principal Adrian Ramirez said the District Honor Roll recognition “is truly a collective effort from our students, parents, staff and board of trustees. We operate with the belief that any student who wants to challenge themselves by taking an advanced level course has a right to do so. It is then our responsibility to set up the structure and support to ensure equitable access and preparation for AP courses is a reality for all students. We are fortunate to have students who are willing to challenge themselves, parents that support their students, teachers that go the extra mile to prepare our students, a counseling department that creates a master schedule that structurally maximizes access and a district that provides $30,000 each year for AP exam fee assistance.
Inclusion on the 10th annual AP District Honor Roll is based on the examination of three years of AP data, from 2017 to 2019, for the following criteria:
- Increased participation/access to AP by at least 4 percent in large districts, at least 6% in medium districts, and at least 11 percent in small districts.
- Increased or maintained percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students taking exams and increased or maintained the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students scoring 3+ on at least one AP Exam; and
- Improved performance levels when comparing the percentage of students in 2018 scoring a 3 or higher than those in 2016, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70% of its AP students are scoring a 3 or higher.
San Benito High School U.S. History teacher Christopher Lasley said the school’s honor roll recognition “is gratifying and validates what we as educators strive to provide our students in terms of opportunity and rigor. Unfortunately, when you look at most high schools across the nation, the student makeup of AP-level classes does not reflect the diversity of the general student population, and so I’m proud to work at an institution that is significantly closing the access gap for our highly-motivated students.”
Lasley said he is “excited to see the AP program at San Benito High school grow to offer every student looking to challenge themselves with the opportunity to take courses that provide the rigor needed to both pass the exam (and thus earn college credit in high school) as well as being better prepared for the academic challenges and expectations of a four-year institution down the road.”
Senior Ella Pascua, who has taken nine AP classes at SBHS between her sophomore year and this year, said that as a first-generation college-bound student, she has appreciated the academically-rigorous courses and the encouragement from teachers to challenge herself in the classroom.
“These courses are fast-paced; similar to college,” said Pascua, who plans to pursue a business administration major in college and “adapt my major to create social change in the world.” She credited counselors with encouraging AP participation and thanked the district for “addressing the achievement gap among minority students who often don’t have the opportunity to take these courses” at other schools.
SBHS District Superintendent Dr. Shawn Tennenbaum said not just the campus but the entire community should take pride in the AP Honor Roll recognition.
“On behalf of the San Benito High School District Board of Trustees and the entire school community, we could not be more proud of our students, faculty, staff members, administration, and parents for their continued belief, trust, and commitment to ensuring the District provides a rigorous academic environment for all students,” he said. “The Board of Trustees-adopted goals of academic excellence and an inclusive environment for all students are not only a reality in the San Benito High School District, but also recognized by the College Board through this monumental accomplishment. It is with great pride that the Board of Trustees’ and the District’s commitment to financially support all AP students is providing students with opportunities to excel during their high school years, while also accruing college/university credit for the future. It is truly a great day to be a Baler, as SBHSD was one of only 17 California school districts throughout the state and the only Central Coast school district to receive this honor.”
Earlier this school year, it was announced that 73 San Benito High School students were named AP Scholars for the 2018-19 school year for earning scores of 3 or higher on three or more AP exams.