What If Students Had to Opt Out of AP?


In Washington state’s Federal Way Public Schools every student in grades 6-12 who passes the state test in a specific subject area is signed up for advanced placement, International Baccalaureate, Cambridge International, or honors classes in that subject. It’s the district’s effort to open up classes that have traditionally served only a handful of privileged students to all students, regardless of their economic background, gender, and race.

Assistant superintendent and former ASCD Emerging Leader Joshua Garcia describes the effort as an attempt to break institutional limitations on students and the ultimate form of parent engagement. Instead of the school determining whether a student can enroll in an advanced placement course, parents are empowered to make that choice along with their children.

There are logistical challenges to serving and supporting a larger number of students in accelerated courses, but so far the policy (part of the district’s broader commitment to educating the whole child) seems to be working. The number of students enrolled in advanced academic classes nearly doubled in the district this year, skyrocketing from 1,214 students to 2,078, more than half of whom are students of color. More than 65 percent of the district’s juniors and seniors now take at least one advanced class, compared to last year’s 38 percent.

What do you think about Federal Way’s automatic enrollment policy for students who qualify for accelerated courses? Read more about it on the Whole Child Blog.