Major equity gaps in access to AP science education continue

While students say STEM courses are their favorite subject and they aspire to go to college, black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds have been left out of the critical learning opportunities available through AP STEM courses, according to a new report from Education Trust and Equity Opportunity School. From, Shut Out: Why Black and Latino Students Enroll in AP STEM Course.

This new study highlights that a positive and inviting school climate plays an important role in getting more black and Latino students into advanced courses that nurture their aspirations and interests and position them for improvement in college and future careers.

“Students who are willing and interested in taking the Advanced Placement Course at their school should not be stopped because seats are not available or they are not welcome in these courses,” said Dr. Alison Sokal, P-12’s assistant director. “District and school leaders must lead efforts to create a more welcoming and inclusive learning environment that ensures that students interested in the STEM profession can enroll in and succeed in the AP STEM course.”

Based on a sample of 80 districts in 24 states and a survey of 200,000 students in 184 schools, the report found:

  • 2 out of 5 black and Latino students and 1 in 4 low-income students say that STEM courses make them aspire to their favorite courses and colleges.
  • But very few Black and Latino students enroll in AP STEM courses that will prepare them for college and STEM careers (e.g., less than 2% of STEM-interested and college-aspiring Black and Latino students and low-income background students in AP Biology).
  • The school climate is crucial in helping students access improved coursework opportunities, especially when they build on students’ interests and aspirations.
    • Students who want to go to college are 105% more likely to take AP classes than those who do not want to go to college
    • Students who want to go to college are 11% more likely to take an AP class when they feel at home in an AP class
    • Students who want to go to college are 16% more likely to take an AP class when they are enrolled in an AP course.
Laura Assion
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