Mesa Public Schools was one of 12 districts recognized recently for closing the achievement gap in high level high school courses by the White House and Lead Higher in Washington, D.C. The district was honored for its diverse, representative student population in advanced college preparatory coursework.
“Mesa Public Schools is committed to meeting the needs of all of our students and ensuring they are college and career ready,” said Dr. Michael Cowan, Mesa Public Schools superintendent.
White House Cabinet Secretary and My Brother’s Keeper Taskforce Chair Broderick Johnson honored the district at a dinner celebration Sept. 21, hosted by Equal Opportunity Schools and the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The 12 recognized districts have committed to finding “missing students” and ensuring previously overlooked low-income students and students of color are matched with challenging high school learning opportunities.
“Our schools are identifying achievement gaps and implementing comprehensive plans to close them,” Cowan said. “Strategies are being deployed to drive more students to participate in honors programs and rigorous coursework. Professional development supports are available to assist teachers in making strides toward our goals based on real-time student data.”
Currently, fewer than 1 percent of diverse high schools in the U.S. that have sizable Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate programs equitably include Latino, black and low-income students in those programs. Given the small number of schools who provide equal access to these college-level programs today, the total local and state Lead Higher commitments announced at the event have the potential to increase the number of equitably-accessed AP/IB programs by fivefold.
“We applaud the commitments of these local leaders and their commitments to meeting the needs of all students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John King. “These elite districts serve as lighthouse systems for other districts to emulate.”
The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, which provides scholarships and grants to open doors to equal educational opportunities for outstanding low-income students, helped launch the Lead Higher initiative and has contributed $1 million in funding to the effort. Lead Higher’s mission is “to enable secondary schools to fully reflect their diversity at the highest academic levels; and to elevate our national conversation about low-income students and students of color beyond achieving proficiency to academic excellence.”
“We were honored to participate in these conversations at the national level and to work with other bold leaders who enable schools to fully reflect their diversity at the highest academic levels,” Cowan said.