Why Is There a Lack of African Americans Enrolled in Higher Level Classes & Academically Gifted Programs?

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Why Is There a Lack of African Americans Enrolled in Higher Level Classes & Academically Gifted Programs?

Victoria Bryant


Mr. Schmidt


Why Is There A Lack of African Americans Enrolled In Higher Level Classes & Academically Gifted Programs?

Advanced Placement classes are classes that offer college-level curricula and exams to high school students. The Advanced Placement Program was created by the non-profit organization College Board. Since the creation of Advanced Placement classes in schools starting in the 1960’s, the number of African Americans enrolled in these classes has been scarce. Although there has been a slight increase in recent years, there are still a number of factors preventing African Americans from excelling at the same rate as their Caucasian classmates. Factors such as family income, occupations of your parents, and how high of a degree your parents or guardians have obtained all affect how likely African American students are to enroll into Advanced Placement classes and be chosen for Academically-Gifted programs. It has been shown through multiple studies that the number of African Americans in these programs are impacted by unfair disciplinary policies implemented in public school systems and psychological influences that prevent African Americans from enrolling into higher level classes.

The school-to-prison pipeline is a metaphor that describes the policies that encourage police presence in schools, harsh tactics such as physical constraint, and automatic punishments that result in school suspensions or out of class time. The school-to-prison pipeline starts ultimately in the classrooms. A teacher’s decision to refer a student for punishment due to zero tolerance policies, often causes students to be pushed out of the classroom. Because of this students are more likely to be introduced to the criminal justice system. According to Tolerance.org, the students that are mostly represented in this pipeline are racial minorities, specifically African American students with some being Latino as well and students with disabilities. As stated by a nationwide study done by the U.S Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, black children constitute for 18 percent of students, but make up 46 percent of children that have been suspended more than once.

There are several contributors that aid to feeding youth of color, particularly African American students, into the school-to-prison pipeline, zero- tolerance policies being an essential one. Zero tolerance informally means that a harsh predefined mandatory consequence is applied to a violation of of school rules without considering the mitigating circumstances, seriousness of behavior, or the situational context (Heitzig). A vast majority of schools have adopted zero-tolerance for an array of behavioral issues largely directed towards weapons, alcohol and drugs, fighting in schools, and threatening behavior. Zero-tolerance policies typically consist of harsh disciplinary consequences such as long term or permanent suspension, expulsion for violations, and often times a referral to juvenile or adult court . These policies are supposed to be portrayed as neutral and disregard factors such as race, gender, and class. However, this does not seem to be the case. Students of color, especially African American students, are much more likely than their white or other non-black minorities counterparts to be suspended or expelled from school due to disciplinary reasons. As previously mentioned, black students are being suspended in numbers much greater than expected from the size of their student population. In approximately 21 states this racial disportionality is so striking that the percentage of black suspensions more than double their percentage in the student body.