John W. Eyster: Parker High added to ‘most challenging’ list


Parker High School in Janesville was added to the prestigious “America's Most Challenging High Schools” published by the Washington Post and developed by Jay Mathews this year!  As Jay reports in his feature article about the list announcing in his feature article, “America's Most Challenging High Schools: A 30-year project that keeps growing.”

“This is the 30th anniversary of a moment that changed my life, when I discovered that a public school in a poor Hispanic neighborhood could produce 26 percent of all the successful Mexican American Advanced Placement calculus students in the country by giving students more time and encouragement to learn.

“My focus since then has been to explore how this was done and identify those schools working hardest to challenge students from all backgrounds with courses such as AP and International Baccalaureate. One way has been to produce each year The Washington Post's list of America's Most Challenging High Schools. The 2017 edition has just launched.”

Having been involved with the development of the AP US Government & Politics course at Parker HS, Janesville when I developed a pilot for the AP program of The College Board for school year 1985-86.  Then, the next school year, I taught the official College Board AP US Government & Politics course.  In May 1986, students throughout the US took the first annual AP US Government & Politics Exam, including my students at Parker HS.  I was one of the Readers (persons who scored the exams) for that first Exam in June at University of New Jersey – Trenton.  I was a Reader for the Exam and became a Consultant for the AP US Government & Politics course through the Mid-west Region of The College Board.  This led to my being hired as the co-instructor for the AP US Government & Politics Seminar for the UW-Madison's AP Summer Institute.  I taught with Dr. David Canon for 25 years.  I retired June, 2015 from that seminar.  I taught 1-day workshop for the AP Program and a couple week-long summer Institutes in GA and MI as well as the UW-Madison Institute.

Since the start of the AP US Government & Politics course in 1985-86, the course has increased exponentially through the years.  In 2015 (latest available numbers), there were 282,571 students who took the exam!  The total number of AP exams for the 38 AP courses in 2015 was 4,478,936 by 2,483,452 students!

I encourage readers to check the Washington Post's “America's Most Challenging High Schools” list to identify whether their own local high school is on the list.  Also, readers may be interested to find out about area high schools.  This could be a good reason for parents to use school choice for their high school students.  There are excellent search tools in the Post's list.

Concluding his feature article about his research on AP and IB opportunities for high school students throughout the US, especially students with poverity backgrounds, Jay writes,

 “What I saw in East Los Angeles 30 years ago seemed clear to me. Dedicated teachers saw hidden potential in students who had not had much support. They convinced the teenagers they could do as well on college-level tests as kids in rich Los Angeles neighborhoods like Beverly Hills and San Marino. The teachers gave them the time they needed to learn, leading to changes in American high school education that no one, including me, ever anticipated.”

I too am convinced that our schools – all of them – must raise the level of expectations and motivate students to higher and higher achievement.  I know this is possible!  I experienced it through my WASHINGTON SEMINAR at Parker HS year-after-year through the 30 years from when I founded the SEMINAR until I retired from the SEMINAR after traveling on the field study in 2002.

I would add, I am persuaded that PUBLIC SCHOOLS are the only healthy policy for us to following in the U.S. IF we are still committed to the principle asserted by Thomas Jefferson in our Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men,..”

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