Major equity gaps persist in access to AP science learning

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Despite students saying that STEM courses are their favorite subject areas and that 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 highlights that a positive and inviting school climate plays an important role in getting more Black and Latino students in advanced courses that would nurture their aspirations and interests and position them to thrive in college and future careers.

“Students who are ready and eager to take advanced placement courses at their schools shouldn’t be shut out because seats are not available or they don’t feel welcomed in these courses,” said Dr. Allison Socol, assistant director of P-12 policy at The Education Trust. “District and school leaders must lead efforts to build more welcoming and inclusive learning environments that ensure students who are interested in STEM professions are able to enroll and succeed in AP STEM courses.”

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

  • 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 STEM career (e.g., less than 2% of STEM-interested and college-aspiring Black and Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds are in AP Biology)
  • School climate matters greatly in helping students access advanced coursework opportunities, especially when they build on students’ interests and aspirations
    • Students who want to go to college are 105% more likely to take an AP class than those who do not aspire to attend college
    • Students who want to go to college are 11% more likely to take an AP class when they feel a sense of belonging in AP classes
    • Students who want to go to college are 16% more likely to take an AP class when they receive information on how to enroll in AP courses.
Laura Ascione
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