How to Get More Latinos into Advanced Science, Math Classes


Advanced placement classes in high schools across the country are becoming more diverse, and students are scoring higher on the exams than ever before.
ABC News Univision is reporting that according to College Board, the organization that handles the AP programs, an annual report that shows an overall increase in scores, as well as an increase in the number of students performing at the highest levels on the test.
More Latinos are taking the test than in previous years, according to the report, and more of them are succeeding.
David Coleman, president of the College Board said during a call with reporters, “As we increasingly diversify, we can increase achievement at the same time.”
All the data is not positive. Only a small percentage of the Hispanic students who qualify for AP classes actually take them. Of the 20 percent of public school graduates in the class of 2012 who scored a three of higher on at least one AP test in high school, only about 15 percent were Latino, according to the report. A three is the base score needed to get credit or advanced placement at most universities.
The problem is particularly acute in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, which are a set of industries currently clamoring for qualified American workers. According to College Board, that means those students are even less likely to pursue (STEM) degrees in college. Less than one third of Latino high school graduates in the class of 2012 with AP potential in math took an AP math exam.
So the question is, why are many minority students not enrolled in advanced placement classes? One reason is a lack of access. Many attend school where the coursework is simply not available.
A news release about the report said, “Among the factors contributing to this disparity is the lower availability of a variety of AP courses in schools with higher numbers of low-income and traditionally underserved minority students.”
The report offers suggestions for improving access to AP courses. While the obvious solution is for schools to offer more AP courses, the problem is more nuanced. Schools can run into obstacles such as a lack of funding or properly trained teachers.
One way to increase AP participation, according to the report, is to offer better outreach to disadvantaged students. Schools need to do a better job of notifying students that they are eligible for the courses, the report says. Once students are enrolled, the report says that schools should provide support, in the form of peer-to-peer mentoring, counseling and tutoring.
Some Latino students have parents who are not familiar with the U.S. education system and sometimes may lack English language proficiency. The report suggests offering support to parents so that they are better equipped to help their kids enroll and succeed in AP courses.
According to a 2010 Associated Press Univision poll, just 20 percent of mainly Spanish speaking parent say they are able to communicate “extremely well” with their child’s school. The poll also said that Hispanic parents were less likely to seek help form the school on their own. Outreach in Spanish, for example, would allow allow Spanish speaking parents to be more involved in their student’s education.
More AP teachers also need to be trained on how to teach advanced classes and engage kids who may be wary about enrolling them. Some states are already succeeding.
There are several national efforts underway to increase minority access to AP courses, and unsurprisingly, the tech industry is playing a role in recruiting more talented students to the courses that increase their likelihood or pursuing careers in STEM fields.
Jacquelline Fuller, director of Giving at Google said in a statement, “There are hundreds of thousands of talented students in this country who are being left out of the STEM equation… They are not being given the opportunity to find their passion or pursue today’s most promising career. We are focused on creating equal access to advanced math and science courses, and ensuring that advanced classrooms become as diverse as the schools themselves.”