Closing race gap in advanced classes

Maria Eberhart, Staff Writer

Advanced Placement classes mean rigorous course loads, challenging assignments, and a blatant lack of black and Latino students. That harsh truth prevails despite efforts of educators nationwide.

Guidance reports that Black and Latino students make up 26 percent of our school’s total enrollment. But last year, only 12 percent of Black or Latino students took an Advanced Placement test. This percentage gap is consistent with the national struggle to register more minority students for AP classes.

According to the College Board, Black and Latino students made up 34 percent of high school graduates in 2015, yet only 24 percent of participants in AP tests. This high-end opportunity gap extenuates the documented pattern of blacks and Latinos lagging behind white and Asian students. The costs of this gap are huge for minorities, who are less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to attend college and more likely to be pushed to the margins of American life.

The good news is the school’s guidance department is working to change this using data from standardized tests as well as teacher recommendations to identify students with AP potential.

As a nation, we have already embraced a college-and-career ready agenda. As states continuously implement these standards, there are measures districts and high schools can take to close the devastating racial gap.

Teachers and administrators should continue to focus on reducing this persisting gap and guarantee all students, regardless of race, an equal opportunity to participate in rigorous study that leads to college.

Some educators argue the racial gap is difficult to combat without a supportive home environment that encourages enrollment in advanced courses. A 2012 study reaffirms this concern, their findings revealing that parents are more influential than schools in determining academic success. Nevertheless, schools can strengthen parental engagement in the home when students register for classes. Guidance counselors and administrators must begin by educating parents of minority students about the importance of AP classes for their child’s educational development.

Teachers must focus on strengthening their relationships with black and Latino students and developing their knowledge of teaching a diverse classroom. Teachers should not adopt a color-blind attitude, rather embracing the differences among their students. It is vital that honors and standards classes are instructed as stepping stones to an AP course, emphasizing note and test taking abilities. Administrators must, throughout the year, encourage teachers to register more minority students for advanced classes and continue to mentor them after enrollment.

Our education system supposedly values equal opportunity, yet there are deep inequities within our system that thoroughly stack the odds against minority students. Blacks and Latinos are continuously falling through the cracks of our education system and educators must help to catch them.