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Expect More Arizona Excellence Tour: Advanced Placement helps students prepare for college, career in Maricopa Unified


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  • Steve Chestnut/Expect More Arizona

Maricopa Unified Students And Teachers. Photo Courtesy Maricopa Unified School District

Increasing academic rigor is an important part of the strategic plan at Maricopa Unified School District. As part of these efforts, district leadership has placed increased emphasis on their Advanced Placement (AP) offerings, which allow students to enroll in in-depth courses and earn college credit while still in high school.

For students at Maricopa High School, this means that they now have the opportunity to take 11 AP offerings, including literature, language arts, calculus, biology, world history, U.S. history, economics, government, Spanish and studio art.

In a rural community that has grown tremendously over the past decade, these offerings are increasingly important. It’s a large high school with 2,300 students and a diverse population, and Title 1 status. Because of the region’s poverty and high minority populations, it can be challenging to inspire students to continue their education beyond high school, but the AP program is not only encouraging, it allows students to graduate from high school with as much as a year of college already completed.

To assist the students in earning college credit, the school will even pay for the AP exams, given that the student is earning an A or B in the course. At approximately $100 per test, that can mean the difference between a pupil getting a leg up on their college education and not taking the class at all.

It wasn’t easy to get the program off the ground, but educators at Maricopa High have worked hard to recruit students into the classes, and there are more course offerings every year based on increased demand.

Their efforts to make AP a priority have not gone unnoticed – the district was recently honored as a College Board AP District Honor Roll recipient. As one of only four districts in Arizona to receive the award, the team at Maricopa Unified is understandably proud of their efforts to expand AP offerings, recruit non-traditional students into the classes and increase test pass rates.

The emphasis on increased academic rigor has had other positive impacts – including increasing SAT and ACT scores, more students earning more scholarship dollars and the school setting records for the past two years in scholarship dollars earned by the graduating class.

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