My School of Thought . . . on Advanced Academics

My children, Eli and Sara, benefit from the experience and education that Eddie and I are fortunate to have. From their first years in preschool, until their senior year in high school, we made sure they had access to excellent teachers and to rigorous and enriching programs that would prepare them for college. This required a plan, which included enrolling them in high school-level classes while in middle school, and in a range of advanced courses once in high school. We left nothing to chance, paying for tutors when necessary, and urging them to take more challenging courses each year.

Every high school in Metro Schools offers advanced academics, which are defined as Advanced Placement courses, International Baccalaureate programs, Cambridge programs, and Dual Enrollment or Dual Credit classes. Designed to provide a head start on a college education, these classes conclude with rigorous, externally scored examinations, success on which can earn students college credit, often saving them thousands of dollars in college tuition. Their value is clear; students in advanced academics receive more scholarships, are admitted to more prestigious and selective institutions, and enter college and the workforce prepared to succeed. We know the strongest predictor of whether a student will achieve success in college is whether he or she had a rich and rigorous course of study in high school.

However, access to advanced courses remains a problem for many students in Metro Schools. Barriers include small numbers of course offerings, middle school tracking that can prohibit entry to advanced courses in high school, limited counseling services or parent awareness of options, and prohibitive fees and costs associated with the tests and advanced programs, which require that students must pay to play.

In an effort to address the costs carried by students, Metro Schools paid their testing fees for the past several years, which opened the door for many more students to participate in the courses. Unfortunately, as a result of our budget shortfall, Metro Schools recently decided to stop underwriting those fees for the coming year, which cost nearly 1 million dollars annually. I recognize that tough choices had to be made, but this one will have a direct and long-lasting effect on our students, impacting college options, readiness and success. Additionally, we have students registered for advanced courses for this fall, and master schedules have been built, teachers assigned and trained, and programs developed with those registration numbers in mind. Students will have to make hard choices, and many will opt out of the credit-bearing tests, or will withdraw from the courses or programs entirely. This is a tremendous step backwards for our district, and one that we must address now. I urge Dr. Joseph and his team to find a way to cover those costs in the coming year.

If you believe that Metro Council must fund Metro Schools at a higher rate, I urge you to attend their meeting tomorrow, June 5th, or reach out to your Council member and let them know you support increased funding for our schools.