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Auburn School District Board meeting highlights success in AP African American studies and other efforts


By Bree Nichols
UW News Lab

The Auburn School District is among the first in Washington to implement the inaugural Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course which focuses on the history, culture, and literature of African Americans and the larger African diaspora. This year is the first year students will be receiving AP credit for the course.


“We are one of 700 schools nationwide piloting AP African American Studies, and one of only three districts in Washington State to do so. I’m proud to say we’re the only district that has implemented the course in every school,” said Adam Ladage, Director of Student Learning 6th-12th grade.

Ladage presented the course update at the Auburn school board meeting on Monday, April 22, 2024 which highlighted successful elements of the AP course among other advancements in the district.

He said, the initiative underscores the district’s commitment to inclusivity and educational excellence.

The course is part of the AP College Board revised framework for the AP African American Studies course. According to the National College Board, the AP Program consulted with professors from more than 200 colleges nationwide, including dozens of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), along with dedicated high school teachers across the country.


Ladage said Auburn School District teachers continue to actively shape curriculum by contributing to the development of the course.

The course focuses on the topics—essential events, experiences, and individuals—that scholars, AP teachers, and subject-matter experts in AP find crucial to a study of African American history and culture and the African diaspora.

The Auburn School District is part of the ‘A Dream Deferred’ conference run by the College Board and HBCUs, which Ladage says includes initiatives that when combined with their precalculus course, has led to a significant increase—600 additional AP exams administered across the district this year.


Auburn Mountainview High School Teacher Leta Johnson shared student reflections on the AP Course, including positive affirmations from African American students wanting to learn more about their heritage.

The School Board Meeting also heard from Brendan Jeffreys, Director of Student Learning kindergarten-eighth grade.

“Math Studio is about really providing access and agency for all kids to see them as knowers and doers of mathematics.”

The program is structured as a four-part process: it begins with planning and preparing teachers, followed by the enactment of the studio to observe students actively applying their knowledge, then it progresses to professional development, and concludes with instructional coaching for both teachers and leaders. Representatives from Olympic middle school showcased their innovative Math Studio program during the meeting.

Jeffreys said the program continues to expand:

“We had 18.4 percent of our students across the middle school population failing pre-studio. We’ve reduced that by 7.6 percent now to 10.8 percent overall. When we isolate this down just to our math studio teachers, so just looking at those who have participated in the process, that same or very similar group had about 27.9 percent of their students failing prior to implementation, and we reduced that down to 8.2 percent.”

The University of Washington News Lab (COM 362) gives advanced Journalism and Public Interest Communication students an opportunity to build a dynamic clip portfolio by working with client news outlets and other organizations in the greater Seattle area.

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