Hillsborough's AP program wins praise from College Board
TAMPA -- No other school district in the nation can match Hillsborough County's success at increasing the numbers of students passing Advanced Placement tests.
That's what the College Board says. The company -- which designs, sells, grades and markets its AP tests across the nation -- has awarded Hillsborough its Beacon Award for the "profound achievement" of expanding access to the college-readiness courses.
As we've previously reported, the district's gains haven't been universal, and some have voiced criticisms of the potential for unprepared students or teachers to be pushed into such classes. Around 30 percent of Hillsborough's AP teachers have pass rates below 20 percent, and some didn't see a single student pass.
The district has stoutly defended its approach. And College Board officials say the district has set a powerful example by broadening access, enrolling growing numbers of disadvantaged students and helping many to succeed. They say around 40 percent of Hillsborough students taking the tests have passed at least one in recent years, with minority passing rates increasing from 28 to 29 percent.
“Hillsborough has attained unmatched achievement by aligning and focusing an entire community — from principals to teachers to parents and students — on the goal of college and career readiness,” said senior vice president Eric Cantor. “Superintendent MaryEllen Elia is a visionary leader who has taken one of the largest districts in the nation and achieved real transformation in a relatively short period of time. Her dedication to the students of Hillsborough is exemplary.”
Other districts earning awards from the College Board include Chicago; Colton, Calif.; and West New York, N.J. The company also recognized 388 districts, including six in Florida -- Orange, Seminole, Santa Rosa, Marion, Flagler and Charlotte -- for increasing access while maintaining or increasing pass rates.