||HOWARD LAPPIN'S decision five years ago to encourage, cajole and even force his high school students to take college-level classes has paid off on a national scale. In March, Newsweek magazine ranked Foshay Learning Center, a member of USCs Family of Five Schools, one of the top 100 among Americas 25,000 public high schools. The rankings were pegged to the ratio of Advanced Placement tests taken in 1999 to each schools total graduating class.
Lappin, Foshays principal for the past 11 years, was the driving force behind the move to open up AP classes to all students, even ones with average and below-average grades.
Most kids dont think they can take AP classes, but I dont give them the option, says Lappin, who in 1997 was named California Principal of the Year. I force them into this.
Foshay ranked 95th on Newsweeks list
(newsweek.com/nw-srv/printed/us/so/a16936-2000mar4.htm) with a ratio of 1.804 a few points above Beverly Hills High, and just below Manhattan Beachs respected Mira Costa High. Of Foshays 680 high school students, 202 sat for AP tests, and 120 of those were graduating seniors, Lappin says.
In all, 16 California schools were among the 100 top schools, three of them from Los Angeles. But Foshay, at 37th Street and South Harvard Boulevard, was the only inner-city school that wasnt also a magnet.
Trojan tutoring and mentoring programs contributed to Foshays rise to the status of a national model of success, Lappin believes. USC is all over this school, he says. We could not be doing what we are doing without USC.
"THERE ARE SOME people who dont believe that everybody is AP material, Lappin says. I dont believe that. Reserving AP classes for A students is how we track kids and I wont track kids.
His approach is backed up by solid research data. Newsweeks rankings hinged on the findings of a U.S. Department of Education study showing that students have a better chance of succeeding in college when they are forced to do college-level work in high school. High school grades, scores and class rank arent the strongest predictors of college completion. What matters instead is how rigorous and challenging students high-school courses are, no matter what grades they receive, the Newsweek article noted. The factor is particularly important in predicting the success of minority students.
Lappin says students who are reluctant to take AP classes are sometimes surprised by what they can achieve when challenged.
My favorite story is about a kid who is now at UC Berkeley. He came to us with almost straight fails in middle school. We pushed him into AP classes. He graduated from here with a 4.1 average, and he has been on the honor roll at Berkeley for about two years. Because we pushed him.
Magic with Magnets
IN JUNE, a group of Los Angeles transit planners bid for $950 million in federal funds to build a magnetic levitating train connecting LAX with airports in Ontario and Riverside. Dubbed maglev, the $4 billion fast train would hover six inches above the tracks, drawn by giant magnets. USC transportation expert Jim Moore has little faith in such hocus pocus: We could also move people around in space shuttles, he quipped to the Los Angeles Business Journal. This is hardly what I would call a cost-effective way of getting people from here to there.