Florida Joins College Board to Lift Minority Enrollment

 

Florida is banking on a one-of-a-kind venture with the College Board, the maker of the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SATs), to boost the number of minority high school students in the Sunshine state who go to college.

Dubbed the College Board's Florida Partnership, the plan is to increase the number of students in Florida who take the more rigorous high school courses, known as Advanced Placement (AP) classes. The idea is that the more arduous high school training will make more students -- including minority students better prepared to get into and excel in college.

"We in the Florida partnership have a very simple goal: we are trying to put more Florida students into ... college," said Jenny Oren Krugman, executive director of College Board Partnerships in Tallahassee.

The partnership is a key component of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's (R) One Florida plan that guarantees admission to one of Florida's states universities to students ranked in the top 20 percent of their public high school class. Bush unveiled the plan in 1999 as an alternative to race-based college admission or affirmative action programs.

Partnerships are not new for the College Board, but the Florida initiative is the College Board's only statewide program, College Board President Gaston Caperton, a former governor of West Virginia, told Stateline.org. The board has numerous partnerships with school districts that vary in size and scope, he said.

The Florida Legislature also is on board with the program. Despite the budget crunches of the past few years, state lawmakers forked over some $5.5 million for the partnership each of the last four years since the program was launched in 1999, Krugman said.

Since the program began, the number of students who took AP exams in Florida's public schools increased more than 75 percent, Krugman said. The number of Hispanic and black students who took the AP test both increased by more than 100 percent, she said.

The reason AP tests are so important is because most of the nation's colleges and universities give incoming students credit, placement, or both, if students do well on AP exams.

Florida also saw a 32 percent increase in the number of high school seniors taking the SAT from 1999-2003. The number of black high school seniors taking the SAT went up 23 percent while the number of Hispanics taking the test went up nearly 33 percent. Most colleges and universities use SAT scores to determine which students to admit.

The Florida partnership gets more minorities interested and prepared to take AP tests by providing college prep courses in inner city and low-come community centers, churches and organizations such as the Urban League. Some 16,000 teachers across the state's 67 counties were trained, including how to recruit minority students to take AP classes and go to college.

Krugman said other states are watching the Florida partnership program and are "impressed with the results." She declined to identify the states that are mulling similar ventures.

"This [partnership] is ideal for states," said Mike Riley, superintendent of the Bellevue School District near Seattle, Wash., who also worked with the board at the district level. "I wish Washington was doing it."

"From a state's point of view, it [the partnership] makes sense. I certainly hope more states look into the work being conducted in Florida and perhaps work to replicate it," said Eric Smith, superintendent of the Anne Arundel County public schools in Maryland, near the Chesapeake Bay. Smith said he is a proponent of College Board partnerships, having worked with the board at the district level both in Maryland and previously in North Carolina. In both cases, he said he saw a dramatic increase in the number of students taking AP courses.

"There could be positive long-term effects from the program, but I'm not sure it can be applied across the board," said Carl Krueger, assistant policy analyst at the Education Commission of the States, a Denver-based group made up of state education officials.

Will Doyle, senior policy analyst with the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, said states should consider programs like the Florida partnership that encourage students to take AP and other college courses while in high school. These options save the state and families money since many states subsidize the cost of tuition, he said. The center is a Washington, D.C. thinktank that is funded in part by The Pew Charitable Trusts, the same organization that funds Stateline.org.

 
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