District recognized for AP classes offered

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- We all want our children to get ahead in school, and saving money down the road is great, too. Advanced placement courses are a way to do both. And one Valley school district is  excelling at not only getting kids into those classes, but helping them ace the tests as well.

“I am going to be enrolling at NAU next fall,” recent Thunderbird High graduate Tatianna Jefferson tells us. "And I am not technically a true freshman; I am a second semester freshman.”

The reason Jefferson will be half a year ahead of her college classmates is because of the work she did at Thunderbird. "I was in AP US History, AP Bio, which is Biology. AP Art, AP Government, and AP English,” she says.

And she is not the only Glendale Union High School District student loading up on advanced placement courses.

“AP Calculus ab, and AP World History,” says Alejandro Baker.

“I have taken AP World History,” adds Ethan Bolze. "AP US History, last year,  AP Calculus, and then AP Language.“

The Glendale Union High School District was just recognized with a national award for the number of students enrolled in and and passing AP courses.

“It is years of excellence, and we were discovered in the data. We won the award because the scores were outstanding,” AP teacher Jonathan Parker explains.

He says one secret to that kind of success is a school board that sets an expectation for excellence.
“I think over time we have established a culture of excellence so students arrive at our doorstep with the understanding that much will be expected of them,” he says.

But they are also given the tools to succeed, Parker adds. “The district pays for the test for every student. That creates an environment where the student feels welcome to risk, to take on the risk," he says.

Dad Dennis Baker says parents in other districts should ask their school board about that kind of incentive. But he adds, even in districts that don't pay, the test fee is well worth the cost, “That is a lot cheaper than a college class, because junior college classes are usually over $300, and universities are even more than that. So it is a huge advantage, financially.”

Thunderbird senior Ethan Bolze says no student should pass up the opportunity to take AP classes, “You are not going to get this opportunity again, and taking it now, I mean, a free education with teachers at this level and course material at this level. It is just amazing. “

And while saving on future college costs may be incentive enough alone, it is about far more than tests, Parker says, “Because it is unbelievably rigorous, because it is unbelievably challenging, they evolve as students and people. And the skills they refine over time are going to serve them very well regardless of their score on any test.”

Bolze adds: “It’’s really a challenge sometimes, but the fact you are able to get through it and the fact that it helps you grow so much as a person is amazing.”

Classmate Alejandro Baker says, “We put our minds to it and we can accomplish it; and it makes us that more confident and prepared for college and life.“

Jefferson, says, “They make you really articulate and thoughtful in a different way than some of the other regular, classes on campus that are offered.”