Lack of Diversity in AP Classes

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Lack of Diversity in AP Classes

Katie thor Straten and Eden Beyene

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CHS has a diverse student body on paper: as of 2018, 64% of CHS is white, 14% black, 12% Asian, and 5% multiracial. However, walk into an AP classroom, and the diversity vanishes.  

“It’s mostly predominantly white people. It’s like, maybe like four black people, and then some people of other ethnicities, but it’s mostly predominantly white in AP classes,” explained junior Blessing Onokola 

About 14% of white students in the student body are in AP classes compared to 6% of black students from the overall student body. And a whopping 50% of black students are in standard classes, as opposed to 37% of white 

There are many reasons for this split, one being the economic disparities between minorities and other students. Some may find themselves needing to work or otherwise support a struggling home. 

“I just think... the way people are brought up are just different. Sometimes like your whole life is planned out for you, and you have no choice in it, and the classes you take [aren’t] your priority; it’s more like [helping] out your family,” explained junior Makab Abraham.  

Sometimes the issue could be a lack of interest or placement in higher level classes from a young age. 

“It’s the same pattern as females dropping out of STEM. There is some point in middle school where there is a loss of interest. It is definitely a turning point and probably where it starts. Then later, it is hard to catch up,” teacher Danika Ford said. 

Abraham would agree. Because he was not in GT classes early on, he had to work harder to become the AP student he is in now. 

“It just takes a lot more effort,” he explained. 

Sometimes this issue lies with the teachers. Unconscious stereotypes may lead an elementary school teacher to choose certain kids over others to join the GT program. 

In order to eliminate that [8% difference between white and black in AP classes], you need to have honest conversations about race. Some people want to just take race out of it, but sometimes it does factor in and we have preconceived notions of what kids can do, said principal Matt Ames. 

He has made it a goal of his to eliminate differences between minority and majority students in AP classes. 

“One cautionary thing is that you don’t want to throw kids into classes they are not prepared for. The AP class will look more diverse, but have you really solved the problem?” Mr. Ames said. 

Instead he tries to put students who may be capable of honors courses into them, and searches for any misplacement of students. He also looks at the data, which can eliminate racial biases. Specifically, middle school MAP test scores can show if a student is capable of higher level classes. 

But what about racial biases of teachers? Although many would not label themselves as racist, unconscious notions can have a role in placing students and even treatment of them during class. If you don’t think a certain student’s path is with AP classes, you won’t encourage them to aim high. 

“There’s still racial segregation… There’s racial profiling,” junior Jamie Pan explained. These all contribute to the unfair percentages we see with AP class enrollment.  

Mr. Ames believes the school has to adjust with its demographic changes. Teachers must learn to avoid biases, and this instruction can come from professional development sessions. 

“We just have to have discussions about it; we have to talk about it… Once you do that, then you can start to get through those barriers,” Mr. Ames said. 

In the face of these barriers, Pan believes the gap doesn’t have to happen. 

“It’s just a fact that some people are more privileged than others, but it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t get the… same privileges as everybody else. [I] think we should give them a chance,” she explained.