Idea Public Schools’s AP For All program starts with Advanced Placement Human Geography in the ninth grade. (Johnny Quiroz/Johnny Quiroz Photography)

Regarding Jay Mathews’s April 18 Metro column, “A big idea: To help low-income students succeed, challenge them”:

I applaud Mr. Mathews for reminding us of a major reason that millions of our disadvantaged high school students fail to learn adequately: Their schools widely fail to provide them a challenging curriculum. In fact, because of historical tracking and low expectations, the curriculum provided these students is often seriously below grade level, what Mr. Mathews alluded to as “a painfully slow remedial course.”

But, instead of jumping from a curriculum that is below high school grade level to Advanced Placement courses, which are college-level, schools urgently need to bring their courses to grade level. Replace virtually all dumbed-down curriculums with courses at grade level in each grade. For example, for all students except those severely cognitively impaired, high schools need to replace “general science” with biology, chemistry and physics courses.

If we could get curriculum to grade level, students would be challenged and well-prepared for college, without regard to AP.

Gary M. Ratner, Bethesda

The writer is executive director and founder
of Citizens for Effective Schools.