Minority Enrollment in APs Must be Addressed

By Eugenia Cardinale, Senior Writer

The achievement gap is an issue that constantly plagues CHS, and MCPS as a whole. A large contributing factor to the achievement gap is the fact that most Advanced Placement (AP) classes at CHS are majority white.

Public schools in the United States are currently more segregated than they were in the 1970s. According to a May 2016 USA Today article, hyper-segregated schools, in which 90 percent or more students are minorities, have grown since 1988 from 5.7 percent to 18.4 percent.

Furthermore, according to a US News profile on CHS, 56 percent of the student body is white, 22 percent is Asian, nine percent is African American, eight percent is Hispanic, and only four percent is multiracial.

Even though CHS is has a white majority of students, as of 2016, Montgomery County is considered a minority majority district. According to an Oct. 2016 Washington Post article, Montgomery County is currently 30 percent Hispanic, and 29 percent white.

Despite the fact that Montgomery County has a growing minority population, AP classes at CHS still remain mainly white.

According to a spreadsheet detailing demographics in AP classes at CHS (provided by an anonymous teacher) as of 2015, about 4 percent of AP NSL students were Black and 7.3 percent were Hispanic. In AP Psychology, 7.6 percent of students were Black and 7 percent were Hispanic. These percentages fall below the general percentages for these populations at CHS.

These numbers are somewhat reflective of issues faced by public schools on a national level.
According to the Education Department, 37 percent of high school students in the United States are Black or Latino students. However, Black and Latino students only make up 27 percent of students taking an AP class and 18 percent of students passing AP exams.

Minority enrollment in AP STEM classes is even more of a problem than enrollment in humanities courses.
According to the demographics spreadsheet, as of 2015 5.2 percent of students taking an AP science class at CHS are Black and 6.8 percent are Hispanic.

CHS needs to make increasing minority enrollment a main priority. An excuse often made for the lack of minority students in AP classes is that CHS doesn’t have that many minority students to begin with.
Additionally, simply because these students do not make up the majority of the school population does not mean that they should be ignored.

According to a college readiness packet created by Brennan High School in Santino Antonio, Texas, their key to advancing minority enrollment in AP courses consists of having an open door policy and a pre-AP preparation program for students. An open door policy means limiting the restrictions and requirements placed on students who want to take AP courses.

This school in Texas increased their minority enrollment in AP classes from a little over 100 students taking AP Classes in 2013 to nearly 600 students taking AP courses in 2016. Of those 600 students, over 450 of them received a three or higher on the AP exam.

Investing in increasing diversity in AP courses is an investment that CHS should be taking.
How can we call ourselves the best public high school in Maryland if our courses only cater to white students?

When it comes to STEM classes, it is harder to encourage enrollment in the AP courses because of the fact that many students come in without the foundation.

According to Principal Joan Benz, she does not want to blame the middle schools, but believes the middle school educational foundation is important in order for students to be ready and able to take AP classes in high school.

The Texas school district makes it a priority to have prep classes or pre-classes to ease students into the material that may need a stronger foundation. CHS would benefit from following their example.
While CHS offers certain pre-AP programs during the summer, such as preperatory classes for AP Language and Composition, AP US History and AP Calculus, it would be beneficial to expand these programs to be more widespread to all AP classes and during a more accessible time than the summer, when many students may be out of town.

Another part of the the Texas school systems plan was to change the culture at their school to be a more supportive environment.

One way CHS is working to increase minority enrollment in AP classes is through the Minority Scholars Program (MSP). The official and countywide mission of Minority Scholars is to increase the academic achievement of minority students (African-American and Hispanic) and the number of minority students in Honors and Advanced Placement classes.

According to English resource teacher and MSP Sponsor Caitlin Moriarity, one upcoming action Churchill MSP will be taking is pairing Churchill MSP members with incoming Black and Hispanic students to facilitate their success through the transition to high school and give them a support system.

According to Moriarty, one step the English department has taken is to remove the formal teacher recommendation process during registration. This means that teachers no longer officially recommend which class their students should take next year, to avoid discouraging students who may not have been recommended for higher level classes. As a result of this, AP English classes has significantly increased from 2013. The number has almost doubled from 2013 to 2016.

All departments should be working with MSP and taking similar steps to encourage and support minority students in AP courses.

CHS needs to offer programs and pre-AP courses to provide a foundation for students who are not provided that foundation earlier, in order to increase minority enrollment.

Encouraging minority enrollment does not mean forcing students to take classes that they are unprepared for ,or making them feel obligated or pressured to take something they are not ready for. Rather, it means preparing students at the pace that they are comfortable with. With the right steps, CHS can truly achieve the academic diversity that it wants.