Florida’s own Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) was honored at Dr. Michael M. Krop High School on January 22, standing as the nation’s leader, among several school districts, in improving their access to Advanced Placement Program (AP) courses as well as improving the passing rate. Everyone from students to teachers to school officials were applauded and congratulated during the award ceremony.
“How many times can we be number one in the county? Not enough!” said Alberto Carvalho, rooting after MDCPS was announced as the national AP Disctrict of the Year. “If it can be done in Miami, the epicenter of the Americas, there is no reason why it can’t be done everywhere else.”
Increasing from 2010, student participation rocketed as well as the passing rate. Not only have we improved greatly in both of these, but the percentage of passing minority students also increased, by almost six percent every year.
“Miami-Dade’s data jumped off the page,” Barbara Cronan of the College Board said. “Miami-Dade increased enrollment from 17,000 to 27,000 in just five years.”
Out of the 32 AP courses that Miami-Dade county offers its 50,000 students, Miami Lakes Educational Center (MLEC) offers 18 on campus and three online, making over half the courses available to its student population.
“What we’re being recognized for is our ability to open up AP programs to nontraditional students, especially minority students, who may not in the past have gotten the chance to participate in AP classes,” said John Moffi, Social Studies Department Chair at MLEC. “Our students have worked hard, our teachers have worked hard. You need the two of them for it to work.”
Increasing access to AP course work while simultaneously increasing the percentage of students earning scores of 3 or higher is the ideal scenario for a district’s AP program—indicating that the district is successfully preparing a larger array of its students for the rigor of AP and college studies.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic, pleased, and very proud at what our teachers have done in AP exams throughout the years. If I had to say three things that attributed to our performance, I’d have to say great students, dedicated and great teachers, and a wonderful school climate and environment to work in.” said James Parker, principal of MLEC.
According to Erica Evans-DeSimone, a teacher at MLEC who attended the ceremony, Carvalho emphasized that South Florida students, especially the Hispanic and African-American students, had the largest increase in participation in AP courses and success in their tests.
“AP classes are challenging, but that’s why I enjoy them. They never keep me bored. I’m always into them. I like the workload.” said Daireen Espinosa a student in the Communications and Entertainment Academy at MLEC. “In some classes you have a variety of kids, you have your Health kids, you have your I.T. kids, you have your Cambridge kids—most classes are a melting pot of academies.”
Miami-Dade County Public Schools was the district selected to receive this year’s College Board Advanced Placement Equity and Excellence District of the Year Award. The district will also be honored at the AP Annual Conference in Philadelphia on July 2014
“We have really nice kids that care about their education. Most of the kids in the AP classes want to be there and when a kid wants to be there it helps a lot. If they don’t really care—think about it—it’s not going to happen.” said Evans-DeSimone, who teaches AP World History to 9th and 10th graders.
It’s not only the teachers that help students learn at a higher level and earn higher AP scores—the AP community (teachers, school administrators, college professors, etc.) also help, often experimenting with different techniques to improve their students’ skills and performance.
“Our teachers—Mr.Moffi, Ms.Evans, Ms. Mezawi—don’t baby you around; they throw you in and you’re a natural born swimmer. Another thing is that they pull content. They don’t go only by the book. They treat you like an adult and train you on the test,” said Nicole Rosello, a junior in the Health Academy at MLEC.