In a move toward more rigorous academics in Seattle high schools, Roosevelt High School will require all sophomores to take an Advanced...

In a move toward more rigorous academics in Seattle high schools, Roosevelt High School will require all sophomores to take an Advanced Placement course next year.

“The idea is to really embrace the idea that all children can achieve to a higher standard,” Roosevelt Principal Brian Vance told School Board members Wednesday. “It’s a little bit of a risk, but I think it’s also an opportunity to move forward.”

Advanced Placement courses are growing more common in Seattle high schools, and both Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno and Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson want all students — eventually — to be required to take at least one.

The New York-based College Board trains teachers to teach AP courses and approves teachers’ syllabuses to ensure the courses are tough enough to be considered college-level. At the end of the course, students can take a test that, if they pass, makes them eligible for college credit.

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“It’s a great idea for exposing students to all the rigorous thinking of an AP course,” Santorno said. “It’s a pretty bold move. Instead of just providing kids with the background and then just giving them an opportunity, this is an opportunity to just kind of force the issue.”

More than 14,000 schools nationwide offer at least one AP course; in Washington, the number of students taking AP classes more than doubled between 2001 and 2006. Seattle Public Schools has upped the number of AP courses offered across the district, especially in South End high schools that traditionally have offered fewer of them. Other school districts, including Edmonds and Bellevue, have expanded or are expanding their AP offerings.

If Seattle’s pilot project at Roosevelt works out, the school could become a model for other Seattle high schools, Santorno said.

This school year, 40 percent of Roosevelt’s 410 sophomores are taking the one AP class available to their grade level, AP European History. The school offers 11 AP classes.

School Board member Michael DeBell questioned why Vance wants all sophomores at Roosevelt to take the same course, AP Human Geography.

“I think that all students should be able to play to their own self-perceived strengths,” he said.

The choice of a course was controversial, since it replaces AP European History, which was popular. But Vance said he didn’t want one required course to become more popular than another. Enrolling all sophomores in the same course is a way to “clean the slate,” he said.

Information from The Seattle Times archives was included in this report.

Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or