District Unity for Course Progression is Key to Equity


Jaein Kim

At schools like University High, students are allowed to take AP classes a year earlier than at Portola or Northwood high schools, giving them a figurative head start in following their passions at a collegiate level.

Akshay Raj and Manan Mendiratta

There is a disparity in course offerings between the Irvine Unified School District high schools. All IUSD schools should offer the same Advanced Placement (AP) courses to the same grades to ensure equity for all students in the district. 

For example, students at Woodbridge High are permitted to take AP Language as sophomores and AP Human Geography as freshmen, whereas Portola High students are only eligible to take these courses as seniors and sophomores, respectively.

“Our philosophy organizationally has been to allow a lot of local control. That means letting schools make decisions based on what their students ask for and what their students need,” district assistant superintendent Cassie Parham said. “Every school’s instructional program is also structured a little differently. So they make decisions on whether or not to add an AP course based on if it makes sense, and if it’s a natural progression.”

While many schools offer courses that are similar in nature to AP courses, certain students looking to explore their passions at a nationally-recognized level are unable to do so to the same extent as others in the district with the current system.

“I do not think it’s fair for other schools to get opportunities for APs earlier on since it does not even out the playing field in Irvine,” junior Sherine Ismail said. “Without this opportunity, I am obliged to take many APs within two years where other schools had four years, creating a lot of pressure and stress to do well.”

The College Board additionally offers AP Scholar awards at different levels to students who take a certain number of AP courses, which aid in scholarships and college admissions, according to the College Board. While a Woodbridge High student may be able to meet the five or eight AP test requirement prior to the application process, it is far more difficult for a Portola or Northwood high student to do the same. 

Despite the different resources available at each school, the consistent standards across the nation for AP courses make it only a logical decision for the district to set pathways that all high schools need to follow. Since most IUSD schools already follow the same progression pathways for AP subjects, the only adjustment that needs to be made is the grade levels at which these courses are offered.

To maintain a fair and equitable environment, the district must begin by ensuring that all students are on a level playing field when it comes to courses that hold the most value in college admissions.