A $150,000 grant will enable the University of California, Riverside’s Graduate School of Education to strengthen and grow one of its most successful regional partnerships.
Launched in 2016, the UCR AP Readiness program is the product of a collaboration between the university’s Graduate School of Education, or GSOE, and the Riverside County Office of Education, or RCOE. It provides academic and instructional support to high school students and teachers who participate in and lead Advanced Placement courses in all 23 RCOE districts.
The premise is simple: AP teachers attend monthly seminars alongside their students, with both parties benefiting from various levels of supplemental instruction, lesson modeling, and peer-to-peer networking. Held on Saturdays at UCR, all seminars are taught by vetted master instructors — usually current or retired AP teachers with records of previously high-performing classes.
Beginning in fall 2018, AP Readiness will grow in scale to also incorporate students and teachers from the districts within neighboring San Bernardino County. The program’s expansion comes courtesy of a two-year Innovation Award presented to UCR in May by the bicounty collaborative Growing Inland Achievement.
Composed of various leaders in Riverside and San Bernardino counties’ education, business, and civic sectors, Growing Inland Achievement is geared toward improving educational attainment rates throughout the larger Inland Empire region as a means of furthering economic progress.
GSOE Dean Thomas Smith praised the expansion as a critical signifier of UCR’s commitment to the surrounding community and its goal of promoting college and career readiness.
“To some, it might seem like our university’s work focuses only on Riverside County, but we want to ensure we’re also serving students in San Bernardino County and the surrounding areas,” Smith added. “There’s just as much need in San Bernardino County as there is in Riverside County.”
Smith emphasized the AP Readiness program’s potential to empower teachers, especially when it comes to building support networks across schools and districts. By encouraging educators to discuss teaching strategies and share materials, he said, the AP Readiness program will have a significant impact on the quality of AP education in the two counties.
Johnny Coogan, a veteran educator who teaches AP English language at Elsinore High School in Wildomar, said he has appreciated the opportunity to learn from other teachers during the past two years of AP Readiness sessions.
“When I’m in a session, the teachers are teaching exactly what I teach, so I can take their points and maybe add some of my own flavor to the mix when I teach (the same material),” said Coogan, who has participated in AP Readiness sessions since the program’s inception and also served as one of its master instructors over the past year.
“I’m always telling other AP teachers to send their students,” he added.
Such word-of-mouth promotion has only helped the program grow. In fact, AP Readiness Director James Keipp said the program nearly doubled its enrollment in its second year, ending the 2017-18 season with an average of 800 students (and 75 educators) participating in each session. In 2018-19, meanwhile, the program is projected to reach an additional 350 students and more than 35 teachers from San Bernardino County.
Keipp described the program’s expansion as the culmination of “a big-picture effort to improve the future of youth in the two counties.” The Growing Inland Achievement grant, he explained, will allow UCR to invest in more classrooms, instructional support, and course offerings, although students from both counties will attend the same monthly seminar sessions.
“One of the biggest benefits of expanding our program into San Bernardino County, aside from increasing the number of interactions between teachers and students, is that we’ll also be able to diversify our instructional options,” Keipp said.
As a result, the program will maintain its roster of eight traditional course offerings — including biology, calculus, chemistry, computer science, and physics — while adding two new seminars in world history and human geography.
According to Gil Compton, director of College and Career Readiness at RCOE, participation in college-level AP courses, which are among the most rigorous courses offered to high schoolers in the United States, can often be an indicator of later-in-life success. In particular, studies have shown that when a student completes one AP course during high school, he or she has a 40 percent higher chance of obtaining a four-year degree.
In Los Angeles County, where the AP Readiness program was piloted, meanwhile, data indicates that students who attended AP Readiness seminars had a 20 percent higher passage rate on their end-of-year examinations than students who didn’t attend.
Beyond its academic effects, GSOE Dean Smith recognized the program’s value as a recruitment tool for local students.
“Although they might be from surrounding areas, many of the students who participate in our AP Readiness program have never before stepped foot on UCR’s campus, or any college campus,” Smith said. “We see this as a unique opportunity to hook students on what’s cool about UCR and also provide another layer of pre-college support, whether it’s by assisting with filling out applications and financial aid forms or leading campus tours.”