Two Arlington County ninth-graders told Washington-Lee High School Principal Gregg Robertson they had made a mistake. Advanced Placement world history, a college-level course, was too much for them. They wanted to switch to the regular world history course.
Robertson pointed to a banner in his office: “The only way out is through,” it said, inspired by an Alanis Morissette song. He made a deal with the students. If they stuck with AP through the end of the first semester, they could switch if they still wanted to. When the time came, they had adjusted to the heavy writing and reading load. They stayed and did well in the course.
With such stories in mind, Washington-Lee teachers, counselors and administrators are attempting something never done in any non-magnet suburban Washington school. If they succeed in their efforts, next spring every Washington-Lee graduating senior will have taken at least one AP or International Baccalaureate course and test.
This is exceptionally ambitious. A few magnets, such as Fairfax County’s Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and private schools, such as Washington International in the District, have full participation in college-level courses. But I know of only one neighborhood school in the country in which that’s the case.