Minorities Should Be Enrolled in College and Career Prep Courses
By Janice S. Ellis, Ph.D.
Minorities should be enrolled in college and career prep courses during high school to even the playing field when it comes to not only equal educational access but also to improve the chances that minority children can achieve a better quality of life for themselves, their families, and their communities.
This month the U.S. Department of Education told New Hampshire's largest school district that it must to do more to enroll minorities in college and career prep courses and should consider revising how it assigns students to strict academic levels. A review of advanced placement courses revealed that very few black or Hispanic students are in the advanced placement courses offered by the Manchester School District, according to the department’s Office for Civil Rights.
According to the review findings, of 434 seats in the courses in 2010-11, only 17 went to black students and nine to Hispanic students when there were 381 black students and 596 Hispanic students enrolled that year. There were no Hispanic students enrolled in the advanced courses at two schools in the district. The district is 70 percent white, 12.5 percent Hispanic, 8 percent black and 5.5 percent Asian-Pacific Islander.
During the department's review, the district voluntarily agreed to take steps to provide better access for minorities. "It is crucial that opportunities that help students prepare for college and career are open to all students regardless of race or national origin," said Catherine Lhamon, the department's assistant secretary for civil rights.
The education department said such reviews as the one in Manchester are conducted based on various reasons, including collected data, complaints from parents, students, advocacy groups, community organization or from the media.
The review identified other potential barriers to minorities participating in advanced courses: The common practice of assigning freshmen to strict academic curricula based largely on standardized testing results, and once and academic curriculum is assigned, moving up a level is rarely done; If a student performs poorly in an advanced placement course, or withdraws, it will negatively affect the students overall GPA (grade point average); and there is poor or limited communication and outreach about the availability and benefits of advanced classes to students and parents.
The Manchester district has agreed it will assess the enrollment of students in advanced courses, identify the cause of any disparity and come up with ways to increase participation for minority students. It has also committed to improve communication about the classes and revisit how students are assigned to academic levels when they enter high school.
Other steps the district has agreed to do are: to consider an increase in the number and type of courses offered, and add more teachers to handle the load. They will also revisit whether students should be penalize should they withdraw from advanced classes.
The district has committed to implementing these changes in 2015, and it will have to review data every year to measure progress and make additional changes as needed.
Feature Photo Credit: blogs.ptc.com