The Racial Gap in Access to Advanced Courses in High Schools

A new report from the New York Equity Coalition finds that White students are far more likely than Black students to go to schools with Advanced Placement courses and other curricula that will better prepare them for college. While the report is concerned only with New York State, it is quite probable that other states have the same problem.

The analysis showed that 90 percent of all students in wealthy suburban districts that tend to be predominantly White attended schools with at least six Advanced Placement or similar classes. For students in New York City, where the school students are largely Black and Hispanic, only 18 percent of the schools offer six or more Advanced Placement or similar courses.

The report also found that schools in low-income urban districts did not have the “gatekeeper” courses that prepare students to take Advance Placement courses later on. For example, the percentage of schools in New York City that offered algebra in middle schools and physics, calculus, and advanced foreign languages courses in high schools was 20 percentage points lower than the state average for each course.

Even when these advanced courses are offered at these high schools, Black and Latino students are less likely to qualify to take these courses. They study found that in New York City, 56 percent of the students in schools that offered calculus were Black or Latino. But only 35 percent of the students taking calculus in these schools were Black or Latino.

The report concludes: “Our education system denies students of color access to rigorous instruction in a range of courses that will prepare them for success in college, careers, and civic life.”

The full report, Within Our Reach: An agenda for ensuring all New York students are prepared for college, careers, and active citizenship, can be downloaded here.

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