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Why are there so few black students in AP and Honors classes? I've traveled alot. I've...

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hannahkopler | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:09 PM via web

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Why are there so few black students in AP and Honors classes?

I've traveled alot. I've moved every single year of high school and I usually attented high schools in the suburbs. 

Firstly, I've noticed the majority of suburbs (not all) tend to be majority white. This could mainly be due to the past history of discrimination in the suburbs where black families were denied housing, etc in the suburbs.

However, I have been to two suburbian schools where half and more than half of the student population was black. In one area, the family income was pretty well: fairly middle-class to upper-class. 

In my school where half of the population is black, there is only one black student taking AP Physics. We have three classes, and from those three classes, there is only one black student.

Then, I go in the Regular Physics classes, and the majority of them are black students. 

Same for AP English, AP Calc, and other AP science classes. 

I have noticed this in every single school I have attended, and I have attended more than 10 schools throughout MA, OH, Midwestern US, and a little South of that. 

 

Why is this so? This only came to my attention when one student jokingly told my teacher to grade Asians less because there are so many Asians dominating all of these classes.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:20 PM (Answer #2)

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If we knew the reason for certain, we'd have fixed it already.  Don't discount past discrimination and stereotypes as a cause.  They could very well still have an effect.  For example, we have the stereotype that Asians are good at math and we have the stereotype that blacks are generally not great in school.  Reserach has shown that people tend to live up to stereotypes about them.  They (without being conscious of it) internalize the stereotypes and those stereotypes then affect the way they see themselves and the way they behave.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 7, 2012 at 4:46 PM (Answer #3)

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I wish I could tell you that your observations were wrong. They aren't.  It is largely a matter of class, not race.  Those in the upper classes have access to the resources that help them succeed, including family members who have the skill and social capital to push AP and accelerated classes.  At the same time, in this country we do not have equal access to the upper classes in all races.  You are right that suburban school districts often have fewer minorities in advanced classes.  They have fewer minorities in middle and upper classes.

I found this article from The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education interesting.

http://www.jbhe.com/features/59_apscoringgap.html

As the article notes, there has been an increase in the number of black students in AP classes, but there is still a disparity in the success rate of different students.

Traditionally, most participants in the AP program have been concentrated in the high schools in affluent, predominantly white suburbs of major cities. Also, in many racially integrated high schools, large numbers of black students have not been sufficiently prepared to take on the AP curriculum. (para 9)

If the students do not have access to the same preparation, and the same support system, they cannot be as successful.  This is where we need to focus our efforts.  Black children are just as smart as others.  The schools they attend and the neighborhoods they live in are often barriers to their success.

As a country, we need to stop accepting the status quo.  It cannot be all right to siphon poor children in the ghettos into gangs and prisons, instead of colleges.

For more, read here: http://www.jbhe.com/features/59_apscoringgap.html

And here: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/data-reports-research/ap/nation

Citation: "More Blacks Are Competing in Advanced Placement Programs, But the Racial Scoring Gap Is Widening." More Blacks Are Competing in Advanced Placement Programs, But the Racial Scoring Gap Is Widening. Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Web. 07 May 2012. <http://www.jbhe.com/features/59_apscoringgap.html>.

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 7, 2012 at 6:31 PM (Answer #4)

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I can only agree with the two previous posters. It is just one more element of the achievement gap that remains the most pressing problem in education today. One element I would add is that my wife and I taught in two schools in an area where school districts had remarkable racial disparities. The school I taught in was majority white, and offered more than ten AP courses. The school my wife taught in was majority black (almost 100%) and there was just one AP class offered in the whole district. The good news is that many charter schools that serve minority students make a point of offering AP courses. Overall, however, given the importance of AP classes in getting in college these days, this problem is a very serious one.

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hannahkopler | Student , Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 7, 2012 at 7:17 PM (Answer #5)

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I wish I could tell you that your observations were wrong. They aren't.  It is largely a matter of class, not race.  Those in the upper classes have access to the resources that help them succeed, including family members who have the skill and social capital to push AP and accelerated classes.  At the same time, in this country we do not have equal access to the upper classes in all races.  You are right that suburban school districts often have fewer minorities in advanced classes.  They have fewer minorities in middle and upper classes.

I found this article from The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education interesting.

http://www.jbhe.com/features/59_apscoringgap.html

As the article notes, there has been an increase in the number of black students in AP classes, but there is still a disparity in the success rate of different students.

Traditionally, most participants in the AP program have been concentrated in the high schools in affluent, predominantly white suburbs of major cities. Also, in many racially integrated high schools, large numbers of black students have not been sufficiently prepared to take on the AP curriculum. (para 9)

If the students do not have access to the same preparation, and the same support system, they cannot be as successful.  This is where we need to focus our efforts.  Black children are just as smart as others.  The schools they attend and the neighborhoods they live in are often barriers to their success.

As a country, we need to stop accepting the status quo.  It cannot be all right to siphon poor children in the ghettos into gangs and prisons, instead of colleges.

For more, read here: http://www.jbhe.com/features/59_apscoringgap.html

And here: http://professionals.collegeboard.com/data-reports-research/ap/nation

Citation: "More Blacks Are Competing in Advanced Placement Programs, But the Racial Scoring Gap Is Widening." More Blacks Are Competing in Advanced Placement Programs, But the Racial Scoring Gap Is Widening. Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. Web. 07 May 2012. <http://www.jbhe.com/features/59_apscoringgap.html>.

 

I was not talking about the ghettos or the cities. That's a different story where obviously poverty is a factor.

I'm talking about in my schools in the suburbs where generally black people comprise of the middle-class and are fairly well off from the people in the cities.

The black population in the suburbs aren't poor. We have data that shows our suburb is well off when it comes to family income. Forbes magazine listed the suburb I live in as "one of the best places to raise children." And, the suburb's nearly half of the population is black. So, I'm talking about *these* black students which data shows come from middle-class families. Why aren't they enrolling in challenging classes?

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pacorz | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted May 8, 2012 at 7:45 PM (Answer #6)

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I think - and I am speculating here, as I teach in a very white school - that it may have something to do with role models. When students think about who to look up to and who they want to be, there are racial differences in the way they answer those questions.

As a society we've been working since the 1950s to get more gender equity in advanced programs in math, science, and engineering, and that is still a work in progress. Racial equity will unfortunately be just as slow in coming, and that is a shame.

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megan-bright | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted July 21, 2012 at 7:20 PM (Answer #7)

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hannah,

I would keep in mind that even Blacks who are in the middle class still deal with the ever-lasting effects that have been passed down from generations of racist experiences. Regardless of how much money is involved, minorities in this country still have various disadvantages, through no fault of their own, that can be exhausting to deal with. 

I am Black and I grew up in a very poor neighborhood. My school was in a suburban area, and it was about 50% white, 50% Black. I was able to work hard, take advanced classes, and graduate in the Top 5% of my class, even ranking higher than most of my suburban white counterparts. Family structure and personal motivation also play a huge factor beyond just race.

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