New Jersey Sees Major Racial Gap in Access To AP Courses

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New Jersey students of color are greatly underrepresented in advanced learning courses, reported NJ Spotlight News. Only 19 percent of Black students in New Jersey take advanced learning courses in high school in the past two years, per state data. Additionally, the states sees a greater racial gap in access to these courses than any other.

Center for American Progress found only 81 out of 1,000 Black students take an AP course in New Jersey and only 23 of them pass the exam. In contrast, 207 white students enroll for AP courses and 119 pass the exam. There are a few things that contribute to the racial gap including access, academic assistance and economic disadvantages.

Graduate of a Newark charter school, Rasheed Adewole told NJ Spotlight News that the disparity puts kids who are already disadvantaged in even worse situations.

“There’s a difference between not wanting to do the work and the opportunity not being there,” he said.

More information from NJ Spotlight News:

Students who take AP classes are also more likely to attend college and earn degrees, though it’s not clear whether the AP program causes those outcomes or simply enrolls higher-achieving students.

Pointing to that uncertainty, along with Black and Hispanic students’ low pass rates on the AP exams, some critics question efforts to expand AP access. Yet students themselves report that AP and IB classes are often the most academically challenging courses available in their schools.

Experts cite different causes for Black and Hispanic students’ under-enrollment in advanced courses, including educator bias when recommending students; students lacking information about the classes or feeling unwelcome; and admission policies that prioritize students’ past academic achievement over their interests and motivations.

The Center for American Progress says about 68 percent of Asian students and 41 percent of white students take AP classes as opposed to 19 percent of Black students. Also, Black NJ students are four times more likely to go a high school with up to three AP classes offered while white students are twice as likely to go through school where up to 18 AP classes are offered.

Some schools have taken the initiative to change the course of this racial disparity, reported NJ Spotlight News. Elementary schools have been encouraged to offer special courses to 8th graders, the Newark school district collaborated with the College Board to increase AP classes in schools, and some schools have added honors or dual-enrollment options.

“It comes down to three things,” said Brett Peiser, CEO of Uncommon Schools, the nonprofit that oversees North Star. “First is access, second is enrollment, and third is what we do to try to ensure student success.”