Advanced Placement (AP) courses weren’t on Cristofer Mixquitl’s radar when he began attending Richland High School.
And when he took his first one—AP World History—as a sophomore, he admits it wasn’t his favorite class at first.
“I used to get homework done quickly but now I really had to sit down, focus and think about it,” Cristofer says. It did not take long, though, for him to begin enjoying the challenge his AP courses provided.
“I can’t just skim something and find the answer,” he says. “I have to find the answer and really be able to say why that’s the answer.”
Cristofer is one of roughly 800 students taking and excelling in Advanced Placement (AP) courses at Hanford and Richland high schools. He is also part of the district’s growing number of students who are Latino, African-American or of other backgrounds who have historically not taken AP courses.
That success in growing AP in RSD high schools led The College Board, the organization that oversees the AP program, to name Richland School District as just one of 250 districts across the country to its 10th annual AP District Honor Roll. It’s that same growing interest in AP leading the district to expand its AP offerings.
“So many of our students are eager for a taste of the rigor that comes from post-secondary education, be that at a community college or a four-year university. We are committed to giving students every opportunity to have that experience.”
Erika Doyle, Assistant Director of Teaching, Learning and Curriculum.
AP courses offer college-level courses to high school students, giving them the opportunity to challenge themselves academically, prepare for post-secondary education and earn college credits they can apply to a future degree. Hanford and Richland high schools currently offer 28 of AP’s total course offerings.
The AP District Honor Roll recognizes school districts that have seen a broader number of students enroll in AP courses while also maintaining or improving student performance on AP Exams.
Between 2017 and 2019, the district’s AP enrollment grew by 19 percent, with the number of African-American, Latino and Native American students growing by 20 percent. Those same students also saw more success on AP Exams, with 62 percent scoring a 3 or higher, an 11 percentage point jump. Overall, 71 percent of RSD students scored a 3 or higher on AP Exams in 2019. A score of three is the minimum required by many colleges to count the course as a college credit.
Only six other Washington school districts were named to this year’s Honor Roll, with Ellensburg being the only other district east of the Cascades. This is the third time RSD has made the list, having been recognized in 2012 and 2013.
The district will offer two new courses, AP Seminar and AP Research, in the 2020-21 school year. Students who take those project-based courses and also earn scores of 3 or higher on four AP Exams would then earn an AP Capstone Diploma, further demonstrating their readiness for the rigor of college.
“When I learned there was a course like AP Seminar available that could push students to use critical thinking and organization they can use for the rest of their life, I knew we had to offer it,” says Theresa Buczek, who teaches AP and AVID courses at Richland High.
Cristofer says his AP courses have done everything from improve his writing to polish his own native Spanish speaking skills. And that’s why he’s encouraged his own friends to take courses as well.
“It’s not just for students at the top, it’s for people who want to get a deeper understanding” he says. “It really teaches you how to learn.”