When SB 532 was signed into law last year, it authorized a system of incentives for public schools to offer at least five advanced placement courses.
The College Board announced on Tuesday that South Central L.A. could be feeling the reach of those incentives pretty soon.
In a statement, the College Board – a nonprofit organization that advocates for excellence and equity in education – said it was launching its California AP Potential Expansion (CAPE) initiative, a pilot program intended to help bring Advanced Placement (AP) courses into approximately 200 California public schools that, as of now, offer few or no AP courses.
Advanced Placement courses are sponsored by the College Board and are generally recognized to be equivalent to undergraduate college courses. Students who score high enough on the cumulative exams for each AP subject can earn college credit. CAPE will focus on students who are likely to succeed in AP courses, but don't have the opportunity to take the classes.
"Introducing an AP program at a high school has the effect of creating access to those courses for students with AP potential, or the students who are motivated, interested and driven to access the most rigorous coursework at their school," said Potoula Chresomales, the executive director of AP Strategy for product development and communications at the College Board. "It can create a college culture at a place that doesn't have one right now."
The CAPE program will help fund the effort to launch AP courses in the 200 additional schools, in part by offering full-tuition scholarships for teachers to attend an AP Summer Institute. Students will also receive financial help from the College Board, DonorsChoose.org and Innovate Foundation in order to buy textbooks and science lab equipment.
Of the nearly 200 schools qualifying for the CAPE pilot program, 30 are in Los Angeles County. Several are in South Los Angeles, and two are in OnCentral's area of coverage: New Technology High School (located on the campus of Jefferson High School) and Wallis Annenberg High School.
View College Board CAPE Initiative in South Central L.A. in a larger map
In South L.A., only 8.2 percent of residents 25 and older have a four-year degree, according to the L.A. Times' Mapping' L.A. project. Chresomales said having access to AP courses can "demystify what the college experience will be like."
"Many students are first-generation college-bound in their families, and they don't have personal experience or people in their life to tell them what a college experience is like," she said.
New Tech and Wallis Annenberg were among schools chosen because they offer eight or fewer AP courses and have students with strong potential. If the schools do decide to participate in the program, they will make a commitment to offer new AP courses for a minimum of three years beginning in the fall of 2012 or 2013, with assistance by the sponsoring organizations.
In three to five years, the College Board will evaluate the success of the program at each school.
Johnathan Williams, the founder of the The Accelerated School Community of Schools, a network of schools of which Wallis Annenberg is a part, said he was "thrilled."
"This is the perfect initiative," he said, applauding the College Board's reaching out to kids with promise, rather than just "at-risk" kids. "We'd be thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to our kids."
As of press time, administration at New Tech had not responded to requests for an interview.