The Miami-Dade County Public Schools are the number one school district in the nation for enrollment in Advanced Placement courses and for passing rates on the AP exams, the College Board says.
District leaders, students and parents gathered Wednesday to celebrate the major academic distinction in a ceremony at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School.
"I talk about this accomplishment, this feat as truly miraculous," Superintendent of Schools Alberto Carvalho said before a standing room-only crowd.
The College Board administers the AP curriculum and the AP exams. Representatives from the College Board came to Krop Senior High School to present the award to Carvalho because Krop leads the district with a 75 percent AP exam passing rate.
"Today's award is a message to the country, we are here, we are good, and let the rest of the country know that they, too, can do the very best for America's kids," said Carvalho, explaining that Miami-Dade's success with AP participation can be replicated everywhere.
"Miami-Dade's data jumped off the page," said Barbara Cronan of the College Board, who flew in from New York to attend the ceremony.
The Miami-Dade school district offers dozens of AP courses, and the College Board says in five years, Miami-Dade managed to increase enrollment from 17,000 to 27,000 students taking an AP class, while simultaneously increasing the pass rate on the AP exams. Cronan said that's a first for any school district.
AP classes are challenging for students, but success in one usually bodes well for success in college, said Dr. Michael Fass, who teaches AP psychology at Krop.
"Definitely, it's an advantage, depending on what courses that they take, anything that's going to improve their analytical, critical thinking skills would have to make them a better college student," Fass said.
AP students know that's true, and it's one of the big draws to taking the rigorous courses. Another advantage is that students who pass the final exam earn college credit for that class. One student told the assembly about her African father's reaction when she complained about taking AP courses.
"Every morning I woke up at 5 a.m. and walked up mount Kilimanjaro 100 miles," said Krop junior Charity Waweru, imitating her father's Kenyan accent to raucous laughter. "And since I didn't want to bring shame on my family, I undertook the task of taking AP classes," Waweru continued, now speaking accent-free.
The takeaway from winning this award, said Carvalho, is that expanding opportunities for AP class enrollment doesn't mean students are being set up for failure. It shows success can also be the outcome.