DENVER – Brett Butera teaches his dream class at Thomas Jefferson High School thanks to a government grant and nonprofit program aimed at getting more diverse students into Advanced Placement classes.
"I thought that this school in particular could really use this class because it is of interest to so many students," Butera, science teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver.
His AP Environmental Science class is made possible by a program run by the Colorado Education Initiative. CEI looked at the students who tend to take Advanced Placement courses to receive college credit in high school and saw a problem.
"For every five African-American students who have the ability to do incredibly well in an AP class, only one will enroll," Greg Hessee, director of Colorado Legacy Schools Program, said. "So, there's a real opportunity gap."
Hessee says CEI's Colorado Legacy Schools program works in partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative to use $7 million of federal grant money to fund and support more AP classes at schools that are diverse geographically and demographically.
"From Delta to Denver, from Greeley down to Pueblo," Hessee said.
CEI will work with 30 schools over a three-year period to provide classroom resources and provide training to teachers so these schools can offer a full range of Advanced Placement courses instead of basic ones.
"By offering all of the choices, it opens up the spectrum to kids with different interests," Butera said.
Senior Kellsie Forfar-Jones has AP Human Geography, AP Language Arts, AP BC Calculus, AP English Literature.
"It's kind of like a way to really get into intense learning about a certain subject," Forfar-Jones, said. "If you keep taking such broad classes, that's all you're gonna know and that's not really enough to base a career off of."
Sophomore Ge'Swan Swanson is taking his first AP course this year, Environmental Science with Butera. He wants to earn college credit now to help keep college costs down later.
"When I go apply and pay for college, it will be as cheap as possible," Swanson said.
Hessee says so far, the program is working. At the schools where the program currently exists in Colorado, he says 73 percent more students took AP courses and passed the exam for college credit.
"When you break it down by demographic, you see even higher rates of success for students of poverty and for students of color," Hessee said.
Butera is just happy he can teach the class he wants to teach to students who are now thinking more about their futures.
"It's a very strategic move to take and pass AP courses," Butera said.
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