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In Utah, two school districts were honored this year for programs that led to a large percentage of students taking and performing well on the Advance Placement exams in preparation for their entry into higher education.

Making the school honor roll is no small accomplishment for a student and his or her family. When an entire school district is named to a national honor roll for “preparing kids for college,” it’s an accomplishment that furthers one of the central objectives of primary education. In Utah, two school districts were honored this year for programs that led to a large percentage of students taking and performing well on the Advance Placement exams in preparation for their entry into higher education.

The Davis School District, one of the largest in the state, and the Duchesne School District, one of the smallest, were both named to the AP Honor Roll by the College Board, which coordinates preparatory testing programs, including the SAT, for more than 6,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada. The Davis District is one of only four districts in the country named to the honor roll in each of the seven years it’s been in place. The Duchesne District made the list for the second year in a row. The awards recognize the high priority the districts have placed on encouraging students to be as ready for a college education as they can be when they graduate.

For a rural district with a relatively small student population to excel in that category is a notable achievement. Ten years ago, there were no AP programs in the Duchesne District. Now, there are AP programs in all four the district’s high schools, as well as concurrent enrollment programs that allow students to obtain college credit while still in high school. The Duchesne District has partnered with higher-education institutions, including Utah State University, to build programs that pave a quicker path to college for graduating seniors.

The value of such programs cannot be overstated. Traditionally, they have been less accessible to students in smaller districts in outlying areas, which makes the success of the Duchesne District that much more commendable. The Davis District, likewise, deserves credit for an enduring commitment to make sure every student has a chance to go to college and succeed once there.

These efforts are happening in tandem with a statewide push to increase overall high school graduation rates, which have increased by more than 6 percent in the last five years. Interestingly, some smaller districts in rural areas are outpacing the pack when it comes to improvement in this critical area. The school districts of Carbon and Juab counties each have graduation rates of 97 percent, compared to the statewide average of 85 percent.

In a modern economy, a college education is critical to ensuring success in the workplace. It’s good to see Utah schools getting notice for allowing their students the opportunity to enter college well-prepared — a goal the Davis and Duchesne districts have proven is not out of reach for any school system, regardless of size or location.