LISD named College Board District of the Year in U.S., Canada  

Leander ISD has been named College Board Advanced Placement District of the Year in the large category. Additionally Vandegrift HS has earned the AP School Honor Roll Distinction of Gold with Access. “I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be the principal for this community,” shared Charlie Little, Vandegrif principal.   Photo by LISD

By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News 

Leander ISD has been named a College Board Advanced Placement District of the Year for being the national leader among large-sized school districts – defined by students and staff of 50,000 or more – whose AP programs are delivering results for students while broadening access.

 LISD was one of more than 12,000 school districts across the U.S. and Canada whose schools achieved high placement on the annual AP School Honor Roll. Three AP Districts of the Year (small, medium and large) were selected based on research-based criteria that reflect a commitment to increasing college-going culture, providing opportunities for students to earn college credit, and maximizing college readiness. 

“It is an extraordinary accomplishment to be recognized as the sole, large district out of 12,000 districts to be selected for this award,” said Charlie Little, principal at Vandegrift. 

“The recognition is not just for participation, but rather for the enormous growth in measurable performance on the AP exams and students qualifying for college credit. There is a lot of talk about ‘closing the achievement gap,’ but the LISD performance on AP demonstrated by all six high schools shows that we can, and did close the opportunity gap for all students and provided equitable access so everyone could benefit from this increasingly important part of the high school experience, Little shared.

This District of the Year award was based on the 2022 – 2023 AP exam student participation and performance. Specifically Vandegrift had 1,251 students take 2,688 exams with 82% of these tests receiving a qualifying score of a 3-5, shared Shirley Bachus, LISD director advanced programs.

These results open doors leading to college credit amounting to savings of  $729,776 for Viper students and families at a cost of $371 per college credit. 

Additionally over 64% of course 2023 graduates sat for at least one AP course earning a 3 or higher during their years at Vandegrift, shared Christa Martin, VHS dean of instruction and IB head of school.

Martin said over the last five years Leander ISD high schools have worked together to target increased participation and access to AP courses.

“We are thrilled to celebrate substantial gains in both district participation and performance leading to this incredible honor from the College Board,” Martin said.

She shared that Vandegrift students and teachers have done significant work expanding access to advanced programs showing gains in both student enrollment and number of exams taken.  

“These scores and participation are not achieved without hard work and dedication by the students and the staff,” Martin said. 

Vandegrift teachers starting in 9th grade are preparing students for success in rigorous coursework that can potentially lead to college savings, but even more importantly, she said, is that VHS teachers are guiding students in navigating their academic world through critical thinking, problem solving and writing, skills that will serve them well in their postsecondary pathways.

Little echoes those thoughts.

“Being selected for such a rarified recognition provides a tangible measure that the hard work of our staff and students is making a difference,” Little said.  

“Our success since our inception has always been based on the best and most passionate teachers supported by a committed community that is united in keeping the focus on our students. This shared purpose has been Vandegrift’s unique strength since our doors first opened,” Little shared. 

As a campus, Vandegrift has also earned the AP School Honor Roll Distinction of Gold with Access.  

“The Viper’s AP Program is a consistent model for excellence for all,” shared LISD’s Bachus. 

District-wide, over the past year, LISD high schools: 

● Maintained 40% or more of the graduating cohort taking at least 1 AP Exam during high school, and simultaneously 25% or more of the graduating cohort scored a 3 or higher on at least 1 AP Exam during high school, ultimately achieving 83% of district schools achieving recognition on the AP Honor Roll 

● Demonstrated a clear and effective commitment to equitable access to advanced coursework by having 60% of the district’s schools earn the AP Access Award. 

“This award shows that Leander ISD is challenging many students to achieve at the highest levels,” said Trevor Packer, head of the College Board AP Program. “Leander ISD schools are ensuring that all learners have greater access to earning college credit in a wide variety of AP subjects.”

Superintendent Bruce Gearing calls this a tremendous achievement for Leander ISD.

“I am humbled and honored by this,” Gearing said. “To be recognized as AP Large District of the Year reflects the unwavering dedication and steadfast commitment of every individual that completes #1LISD. From our outstanding educators and administrators to our diligent students and supportive families, this distinction belongs to you, aligned to our core beliefs, mission and vision to create the most sought-after creators of our future world.”