As of today, all IDEA regions have started school. So, I would be remiss to not say thank you to our teachers who are balancing remote instruction and family at home.

The majority of our schools have students participating remotely with the exception of IDEA Greater Houston and the Permian Basin.

Here in the Rio Grande Valley I am here in our empty headquarters building as we are under stay-at-home orders until Sept. 13.

I do have some very exciting news to share. At IDEA our high schools either offer the AP For All program, which is the majority of our schools, or the IB Diploma program, at a select few schools. And, for the first time in six years, we have hit our AP goal. Thirty percent of the Class of 2020, who are in the AP For All program, graduated as AP scholars. That means passing three or more AP exams. 

JoAnn Gama, president and co-founder of IDEA Public Schools, is pictured at the institution’s headquarters in Weslaco, Texas.

The economic benefit for that as they enter college this fall is huge. Advanced Placement courses not only provide opportunities for our students to earn valuable college credit, but they provide the best approximation of college level rigor in a curriculum that is both extremely challenging and accessible to all our students.

Studies show that students who take these courses are more prepared for the demands of college, are more attractive applicants to tier one and two colleges and universities and are more likely to earn their degree. And this is especially true for low-income students who are significantly more likely to graduate from college than students who never take an AP course.

Also remarkable is that this year seven campuses hit the 30 percent AP scholar goal and 78 percent of all seniors in the Class of 2020 passed at least one AP exam. That is up six percentage points from last year.

Highlights from this year’s results include 48 percent of the Class of 2020 at IDEA McAllen earning AP scholar status. Thirty-eight percent at IDEA Alamo, 36 percent at IDEA Quest, 32 percent at IDEA San Juan, and 30 percent at IDEA Pharr. We also had 30 percent at IDEA Carver in San Antonio, and 30 percent at IDEA Montopolis in Austin.

Next year is looking strong as well with 24 percent of the Class of 2021 starting their senior year having already obtained AP scholar status, meaning passing three or more exams.

As you know, in this Spring, due to COVID, schools were closed in mid-March and AP tests were one of the few exams still administered to students. The format changed and students tested online from home. So, a huge thank you to our staff who worked with students and parents to confirm access to college board accounts and receive AP exam login codes before the day of the test. Our school staff made calls and sent messages to students and families with reminders about taking the upcoming test.

The benefits of taking the exam and the availability of hot spots at certain IDEA schools for those who might not have had access at home. We hosted AP parent webinars to present the changes in test format to reiterate the benefits of taking the test and explained how parents can help create a productive testing environment at home.

I also want to thank our IT team who worked with students who needed tech devices and/or those that needed MiFi because they did not have internet access at home.

And lastly I want to congratulate each of our AP scholars and the teachers who taught them this past school year. Passing an AP exam means that students are that much closer to receiving their college degree. So, thank you. Thank you for all of your hard work and let’s make it a great week everybody.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column is based on a video presentation made by JoAnn Gama, president and co-founder of IDEA Public Schools. 

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