A Dream Deferred | HBCU Conference 2024

An Education Model for the Transformation of a Low-Performing School

Utilizing AP as an Instrument of Rigor

Exterior photo of MECPS

In the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., the first bell rings at 7:15 a.m. for the 895 students at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School (MECPS). Today, the inner-city public school’s students can proudly boast of a 97% graduation rate (well above the state median) and a school ranking of #72 out of 1,376 in New York City.

Two decades ago, when Dr. Michael A. Wiltshire first took on his role as principal, the graduation rate was 61%, with roughly 80% of students lacking proficiency in English and math.

He sought change.

This was driven by a desire to close the achievement gap so that the Black and Brown students—who make up 99% of the population—could tap into academic success and beyond.

At the A Dream Deferred™️ Conference, Dr. Wiltshire presented a robust plan—heavily reliant on Advanced Placement® and a dual enrollment program with Medgar Evers College—that would effectively turn the formerly underperforming school into one of New York City’s early college high schools.

Dr. Michael Wiltshire, principal of Medgar Evers College Preparatory School, at the 2024 A Dream Deferred conference

Pictured: Dr. Michael Wiltshire, principal of Medgar Evers College Preparatory School, at the 2024 A Dream Deferred conference

AP as a Transformation Tool

Implementing Wiltshire’s plan to create an “ideal” school meant a massive revamp of the old curriculum, including expanding to include grades 6 to 8 and creating conditions where ninth graders could begin their AP journey.

Planning began in 2001 with implementation starting in the 2005–06 school year. Three academic strands were developed:

  • Academic Strand 1 (Grades 6 to 8; Early High School): While typically considered middle school, these grades provided rigorous high school-level education. By the eighth grade, scholars will have completed the first two years of high school credits to get a diploma and the required state standardized testing. This strand is meant to prepare students to begin taking AP courses in grade 9.
  • Academic Strand 2 (Grades 9 and 10; Strong Focus on AP): Students must complete the foundational AP courses required by MECPS: AP Computer Science Principles, AP English Language and Composition, AP Seminar, and AP Research. In the 10th grade, students will choose an area of concentration and continue with AP courses within their selected area. Students have the option to pursue electives in different areas.
  • Academic Strand 3 (Grades 11 and 12; Early College): Students are well prepared to earn their AP Capstone Diploma or Certificate. Students can also participate in the Career & Technical Education Program (STEAM), earn college credit through Medgar Evers College (MEC), or receive one of three associate degrees through MEC in computer science, biology, or teacher education.

Impact of AP on the Early College Program

As Dr. Wiltshire notes, the academic rigor of AP is the preparation for the early college courses. Additionally, students earn a maximum of 12 transferable credits and complete an associate degree in three semesters instead of four.

In 2012, Wiltshire’s bio on the school website boasts of an increased graduation rate from 60% to 98%. The number of graduates admitted to college increased from 34% to 99%.

Despite 83% of the students being economically disadvantaged, 613 students at MECPS were 2023 AP students, with 420 receiving scores of 3+.

“We hear people say that students from a certain economic background or zip code cannot excel in courses like physics. That’s nonsense. Nothing is impossible. And nothing will stop us [MECPS] from delivering high-quality education,” says Dr. Wiltshire triumphantly.