Inequities in Advanced Coursework: What’s Driving Them and What Leaders Can Do

Research Rundown Issue: February '20
Publisher: The Education Trust
Date Published: January '20


The Education Trust examined disparities in access to advanced coursework for black and Latino students. The report found that even though black and Latino students are successful in advanced courses when given the opportunity, they are also often denied access to those courses. In some schools, these courses aren’t offered at all, and in others—particularly more diverse schools—advanced courses are offered, but black and Latino students are denied access. The report found that Minnesota is no exception, with black and Latino students very underrepresented in rigorous coursework.

In order to increase access, the report recommended that state leaders should:

  • Set clear, measurable goals for access and success in advanced coursework;
  • Commit to publicly measuring state and district progress toward those goals; and
  • Use data to identify the barriers that prevent black or Latino students and students from low-income backgrounds from enrolling in advanced courses.

Why This Matters in Minnesota

In Minnesota, there are significant racial disparities in advanced coursework. A recent report from the Minnesota Department of Education revealed that white students account for 79% of the total rigorous coursework enrollment, whereas Asian students are 9%, Black students are 7%, Latino students are 5%, and Native Americans are 1%. For Advanced Placement exams, the disparities are even more stark with black, Latino, and Native American students making up just 3%, 4%, and 0.2% of passed exams, respectively. There is ample research that shows that students who participate in rigorous coursework have higher academic achievement and are more likely to attend and graduate college. Districts should examine their rigorous coursework data and create action plans for increasing access and success.

Read the full report