But Secondary Education Director James VanSciver and other Seaford educators became convinced that with extra help, many more students could be taking algebra in middle school and college-level courses in high school. Four years ago, they began offering special tutoring, summer classes and Saturday classes. The number of Advanced Placement classes at Seaford High swelled from four to 14.
The focus on helping average students also boosted minority enrollment in the most rigorous classes. The district has about 3,400 students, 40 percent black and slightly more than half white. Through the initiative, administrators found more black students doing well and going on to college.
Julius Mullen, who directs a Saturday program for young African American males in Seaford, said the students discovered they could advance if given more time and the assurance that they had their friends with them. “When expectations are raised, I think students will grab for them if they have the support programs in place,” Mullen said. “They have to see their friends achieving success.”