California Educator

May / June 2017

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Page 54 of 59

I n an improbable feat that proves investing in education helps stu- dents overcome poverty, language barriers and living in high-crime areas, Lynwood Unified School Dis- trict was one of three districts in the nation — and the only one in California — to be named a College Board Advanced Place- ment District of the Year. Lynwood is located near Compton and the Los Angeles airport. Ninety-six percent of the district's students are people of color, and many receive free or reduced-price lunch, which is the federal indicator for poverty within schools. e rate of violent crime in Lynwood is 34 percent higher than the average rate in California and 53 percent higher than the national rate, according to Yet despite the obstacles students face, the district received the prestigious award last year for being th e national leader among medium-size school districts in expanding access to AP courses w hile simultaneously improving AP scores. It was among 433 districts in the U.S. and Canada to b e includ ed on th e Col l ege B o ard 's annual AP District Honor Roll. In other good news, a record number of Lynwood High School students prepared to take the AP exams in May, and the district's graduation rate is skyrocketing. Two high schools — Lynwood and Firebaugh — had a 93 percent graduation rate in 2016. Lynwood Teachers Association (LTA) member Saswati Bhattacharyay, an AP cal- culus teacher at Firebaugh, was emotional when she heard the amazing news. "My students' success is my success," she says. "I am tremendously proud of them." e key to convincing students to take AP classes? "I try to build dreams in their hearts," says Bhattacharyay. "I want them to have dreams of having an educated and suc- cessful life. I connect with them and build their mathematical foundation so they go for challenges. ey are seeing success hap- pening, and this builds a culture." Luis Vega, an AP fine arts teacher at Lynwood High and LTA member, was also thrilled at the news. "Teachers do what we do every day, but it feels great to get recognition from the College Board," he says. "I'm proud to be part of this academic progress that is the result of working with the district, parents and the community. I appreciate that the district provided the resources that we needed to make this happen." District of the Year Lynwood Defies Odds to Grab Top Honor By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Lynwood Teachers Association (LTA) member and AP teacher Luis Vega celebrates Lynwood's success in expanding AP course access and raising AP test scores. LTA member John Ude teaches AP engineering at Firebaugh High School. 53 May / June 2017

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