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Schools getting better Increase in advanced placement classes offers pupils challenges and opportunity

It's easy to support James A. Williams' decision to increase the number of schools offering advanced placement courses.

The Buffalo superintendent wants all city high schools to offer challenging academic programs and inspire confidence, an idea that once may have seemed unrealistic. Conventional wisdom says students from wealthier families tend to have more parental involvement and, as a result, have an advantage. That's not a reason to avoid pushing the academic envelope for all schoolchildren, as Williams has indicated.

There are 45 advanced placement courses in Buffalo high schools this year, more than double the previous 22. And many schools are offering advanced placement for the first time.

The preparation these college-level courses provides can add up. Most colleges offer entering freshmen credit for AP grades of 3 or above, while others require grades of 4 or 5. Those are credit hours that don't have to be paid for with college tuition -- making successful completion during high school akin to money in the bank.

Just as important is the cachet a rigorous curriculum brings. Think City Honors and Hutch-Tech. Then imagine students competing for entry not only into a couple of select Buffalo Public Schools, but to a wide range of them. Imagine families returning to city living based on educational opportunities. Better still, imagine companies locating in Buffalo because of a highly educated work force.

The Buffalo Public School System is typical of many urban American schools, with an abundance of poor students performing at alarmingly low levels. Raising standards can seem a heavy lift, but it's not impossible. Give students the opportunity and they'll prove the point.

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