O’Tilia Hunter of Lake Arbor said it broke her heart last year watching her son’s friends fight unsuccessfully to get into Charles H. Flowers High School’s specialized educational courses.
“He worked so hard,” Hunter, 47, said of one student who tried to get into the school’s magnet program. “I remember seeing his name on the list of [students earning] straight A’s and I cried.”
Her son, Zechariah, 15, was selected and is enrolled in the Springdale school’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics magnet program, but she said other students are not so fortunate.
Those who don’t get into the special courses often are left unchallenged by regular coursework or unprepared for the jump to the rigors of Advanced Placement, school officials said. The limited spaces in the school’s magnet program spurred a partnership formalized Jan. 8 between Flowers and the College Board — a New York-based nonprofit organization focused on college readiness — to increase Advanced Placement course offerings and provide professional development and discretionary funds for classroom supplies.
School officials said they hope the plan will provide some of the same rigorous course offerings and more opportunities for students outside of the school’s magnet programs.
Principal Gorman Brown said the school’s magnet program accepts around 125 incoming ninth-graders each year, based on their performance on a standardized test and middle-school grades. Around 100 qualified students are put on a waiting list.
The school receives around 600 incoming ninth-graders each year.
The partnership, which will last three years, requires no financial contribution from the school. But the school must offer the additional AP courses — upper-level versions of the AP Physics and Calculus classes the school already offers — for the duration of the deal, Brown said.
Brown said he hopes to use the additional courses and resources to also build an “AP Bridge” program for students in the ninth and 10th grades. He wants to prepare them for the rigors of college-level coursework of AP courses that begin in junior year.
Those in the magnet program already have rigorous courses in ninth and 10th grades that help prepare them for AP-level work, he said.
“We’re reaching out to our feeder middle schools to identify eighth- and ninth-graders who are moderate- to high-achieving and committed to learning,” Brown said.
The bridge program begins in September and will be open to all interested students in the ninth and 10th grades, although the school will target some eighth-graders from Flowers’ feeder schools think would do well in the program, Brown said.
As part of the proposed AP Bridge program, Brown is working to implement summer learning programs and after-school tutoring programs to provide additional support for students preparing for AP coursework.
Chauntia Bego, the school’s AP coordinator, said receiving professional development from the College Board will allow teachers to stay on the cutting edge of teaching techniques.
“The additional resources for the classroom will really help enhance our programs,” Bego said. “We can better prepare them for doing college-level work, as well as give them an idea of where they may want to head careerwise.”
Hunter said it is important to improve the rigor of courses available to students outside Prince George’s County Public Schools’ various magnet programs.
“Those kids are often left behind,” Hunter said. “Every child deserves the opportunity to get whatever some other child has.”