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Building Strong AP ® Programs at Small Rural Schools. Small School Advantages. Small rural schools can provide: a safer place for students a more positive, challenging environment higher achievement higher graduation rates fewer discipline problems

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Building Strong AP ® Programs at Small Rural Schools

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Building StrongAP® Programsat Small Rural Schools

Small School Advantages

Small rural schools can provide:

  • a safer place for students

  • a more positive, challenging environment

  • higher achievement

  • higher graduation rates

  • fewer discipline problems

  • greater satisfaction for families, students,and teachers

    —Smaller, Saner, Safer, Successful Schools.

    (Nathan and Thao, Center for School Change)

Small School Challenges

  • Raising academic aspirations, expectations, and standards

  • Building instructional support

  • Bringing students on board

  • Overcoming funding challenges

Why AP?

  • Each year, students around the world who want to learn and achieve at the highest level become AP students. Through AP's college-level courses and exams, students can earn college credit and advanced placement, stand out in the admissions process, and learn from some of the most skilled, dedicated, and inspiring teachers in the world.

Raising Academic Aspirations, Expectations, and Standards

The Challenges 

  • Limited academic preparationand expectations

  • Lack of college-going culture among some communities

Raising Academic Aspirations, Expectations, and Standards

The Solutions

  • Raise expectations and standards early with AP Vertical Teams®

  • Recognize academic achievements

  • Let former AP students speak

Raise Expectations and Standards Early with AP Vertical Teams

  • Middle school, high school, and AP teachers in the same discipline work to develop a vertically aligned curriculum

  • At many small schools, a handful of teachers cover an entire subject-matter curriculum from middle school through high school, making it easier to align the curriculum from year to year.

Recognize Academic Achievements

“Small schools striving to raise academic expectations and standards need to do more than just tell students they value academic excellence. They need to show them.”

—Gerry BeelerPrincipalMid-Prairie High SchoolWellman, Iowa

Let Former AP Students Speak

  • Former AP students exemplify the benefits of a high-quality education

  • Invite former AP students to speak at parent/student nights or high school classes

Building Instructional Support

The Challenges

  • Untrained teachers

  • Isolation

  • Limited staff

Building Instructional Support

The Solutions

  • Take advantage of AP teacher professional development

  • Get connected through AP Central ®

  • Explore online AP courses

Take Advantage of AP Teacher Professional Development

  • Workshops available throughout the academic year

  • Weeklong summer institutes available worldwide

  • Workshops and institutes led by endorsed consultants

  • AP Reading - Each June, more than 10,000 college faculty and AP teachers from around the world gather for the annual AP Reading.

Get Connected through AP Central

  • Visit at 

  • Electronic discussion groups, including one for small schools

  • Tips, tools, and resources for AP teachers

  • Up-to-date information on courses, exams

  • Opportunities for professional growth

  • AP Program data, research, and statistics

Consider Online AP Courses

  • Good option for schools with limited staff

  • Can help schools add courses to their AP offerings

  • Find authorized online AP courses through the course ledger

Bringing Students on Board

The Challenges

  • Difficulty finding enough students for AP courses

  • Uncertainty about AP Exams

Bringing Students on Board

The Solutions

  • Use AP Potential™ to increase AP enrollment

  • Encourage students to take the AP Exams

Use AP Potential to Increase AP Enrollment

  • Web-based tool using PSAT/NMSQT® data

    • Identifies potential AP students

    • Indicates AP courses for which they might be suited

  • Promotes equity

    • Helps your school find candidates for AP courses

  • Provides useful lists for principals and counselors

    • Expand AP programs

    • Add courses

Encourage Studentsto Take the AP Exam

  • AP Exams represent the culmination of students’ AP experience

  • Students can earn credit or placement for qualifying AP Exam grades

  • Stand out in the admissions process

  • Earn academic scholarships and awards from colleges and universities

Overcoming Funding Challenges

The Challenge

  • Limited funds to coverthe cost of AP

Overcoming Funding Challenges

The Solutions

  • Explore College Board resources

  • Tap into state and federal support

  • Reach out to the community

  • Customize AP offerings

Explore College Board Resources

  • AP Fellows

    • is an annual competitive grant program that provides scholarships for secondary school teachers planning to teach AP courses in schools that serve minority or low-income students who have been traditionally underrepresented in AP courses

  • Exam Fee Reductions


Tap into State and Federal Support

  • Federal AP Incentive Program

    • The Advanced Placement™ Incentive Program (APIP) enables recipients to develop or sustain programs that encourage low-income students to participate in Pre-AP® and AP® courses and exams. Federally funded three-year awards are based on competitive grant proposals

  • State funds for AP


Reach Out to the Community

  • Tap local businesses

  • Partner with local foundations and arts organizations


“AP courses not only provide students enrolled in them with outstanding academic opportunities, but they also can have the added benefit of raising the academic standard for the entire school…It's important that students both in large school districts and in rural ones have access to AP.”

— Jeff BingamanU.S. SenatorNew Mexico

Additional Resources

  • Building an AP Program: A Workshop for Administrators

    • This is an in-depth survey of ways to start and support an AP program. It begins with a review of the benefits of the AP Program for schools, and goes on to explore ways in which administrators can support their AP teachers and students.

Additional Resources

  • AP Central

  • Course Descriptions

  • AP Vertical Teams Guides

  • Released Exams

  • Login