Not passing the test

More African American and Latino students are enrolling in Advanced Placement courses, but pass rates on AP exams—which could earn students college credit–are stagnant or on the decline. Schools have begun using a variety of strategies to help more students pass AP tests.

Teaching the art of the essay

Selective schools and military high schools (which also have selective admissions criteria) have some of the highest pass rates for students of color on Advanced Placement tests. One of those schools is Rickover Naval Academy, housed in the Senn High campus in Edgewater.

Closing the opportunity gap

Every year, a high-stakes gamble begins.Parents across Chicago take their children to be tested for selective elementary schools and programs, the first step in a potentially make-or-break scenario. The district has 16 schools and programs for gifted students starting as kindergarteners—plus 10 more for older elementary students—and these schools and programs send large numbers of students on to the district’s gems: the selective high schools that invariably score at the top of the heap on state achievement tests and offer students a broad array of rigorous courses, engaging electives and enriching after-school activities.

Getting a chance

Smart students from poor neighborhoods are less likely to test into gifted and classical elementary schools. Later, they are more likely to become disengaged and eventually drop out. A special initiative is giving some students a last-minute shot at elite programs.

Limited options

At small neighborhood high schools like Bowen, course offerings are meager compared with the bounty of classes offered at selective schools.