The Westerville City School District will begin working with the Lead Higher Initiative to close participation and success gaps in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses by fall 2017.

The Westerville City School District will begin working with the Lead Higher Initiative to close participation and success gaps in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses by fall 2017.

Scott Reeves, the district's director of secondary academic affairs, told school board members March 7 that being accepted into the Lead Higher Initiative means the district would receive grant money from the nonprofit Equal Opportunity Schools. The funds would help to identify and place low-income students and students of color into Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses.

"Lead Higher and its school partners estimate that 500,000 students nationally are "missing" students that could be in AP or IB courses," Reeves said. "They estimate our district has 293 students missing enrollment in those courses."

He said Lead Higher and its school partners hope to transition 100,000 of those missing students into AP or IB courses over the next three years.

Reeves said Westerville's grant would amount to about $25,000 for each of the district's three high schools.

He said Westerville was among 117 districts selected for participation in the initiative.

Through the yearlong partnership, EOS would provide field-leading data analysis to measure student- and school-specific causes of participation gaps and then develop a comprehensive strategy to close the gaps, Reeves said.

"We're pleased to be one of a very select few school districts given this opportunity," Superintendent John Kellogg said. "The additional resources and expertise this will bring to our high schools will have a tremendous impact on our ability to meet the diverse academic needs of our students and families."

He said consultants would deliver data to schools on individual students.

"They deliver something like playing cards for your students, and from that collaboration data, you start to recognize students that may not traditionally be seen as IB or AP students, but have some other pieces, such as perseverance, desire and the willingness to engage in that kind of coursework," he said.

He said school administrators would work with the consultants to build strategies that help the students transition into more advanced courses.

"I think we saw a convergence of opportunity for us and where we want to be," Kellogg said.

Reeves said the consultants collect data for students, such as standardized test scores, and then compare their scores with current AP and IB students.

"They identify students that could be successful and help to break down barriers students may have to more advanced coursework, whether they are mental or confidence barriers," he said. "We want to be able to say, 'You can do this.' "

The Lead Higher Initiative is a national effort, spearheaded by EOS with support from the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, the U. S. Department of Education, IB and the College Board. It is backed by contributions from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Tableau and Google.

District IB Coordinator Bill Heinmiller spoke at the school board meeting, along with senior IB student Gabriella Fuentes.

Heinmiller said the IB program gives students "a global perspective."

"I just sent our students' extended essays to places like Australia, China, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom," he said. "IB is a program about building confidence and informed students."

Fuentes described her IB studies as "the most challenging and frustrating, but also the most rewarding program I've ever experienced."

"Without IB, I would not be as hard-working and ambitious," she said. "I'm happy to see that there is an initiative going on to close the achievement gaps for minority students."

The next school board meeting is at 6 p.m. March 21 at the Early Learning Center, 936 Eastwind Drive.

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