Major equity gaps persist in access to AP science learning

Although students say STEM courses are their favorite subjects and they aspire to go to college, black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds continue to be excluded from crucial learning opportunities available through AP STEM courses, according to a new report from Education Trust and Equity Opportunity Schools, Shut Out: Why Black and Latino Students Are Under-Enrolled in AP STEM Courses.

This new research emphasizes that a positive and inviting school climate plays an important role in attracting more Black and Latino students to advanced courses that would nurture their aspirations and interests and position them to thrive in college and future studies.

“Students who are ready and willing to take advanced placement courses at their schools should not be excluded because places are not available or they do not feel welcome in these courses,” said Dr. Allison Socol, Deputy Director of P-12. politics at The Education Trust. “District and school leaders must lead efforts to create more welcoming and inclusive learning environments that ensure students interested in STEM professions can enroll and succeed in AP STEM courses.”

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

  • 2 in 5 Black and Latino students and 1 in 4 students from low-income backgrounds say STEM courses are their favorite courses and aspire to go to college
  • But very few Black and Latino students are enrolled in AP STEM courses that would prepare them for college and a career in STEM (for example, less than 2% of Black and Latino students interested in STEM and aspiring to college and students from low-income backgrounds are in AP biology)
  • School climate is very important in helping students access advanced coursework opportunities, especially when building on student interests and aspirations
    • Students who want to go to college are 105% more likely to take an AP course than those who don’t aspire to go to college
    • Students who want to go to college are 11% more likely to take an AP course when they feel a sense of belonging in AP courses
    • Students who want to go to college are 16% more likely to take an AP course when given information on how to enroll in AP courses.
Laura Ascion
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