Finding Robust Solutions: Documenting and Addressing the Advanced Course Access Inequity Issue

Teacher and high school students in chemistry lab

Enrollment in Advanced Courses (ACs) during high school is associated with college and career readiness and early college success, especially for students of color and low-income students of all races. But in schools and districts where ACs are available, enrollment in Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes is often inequitable, with qualified students from underrepresented groups less likely to enroll than their peers.

Support for this work was provided by the AIR Equity Initiative.

Typically, decisions about which students are eligible to take advanced courses are based on teacher or counselor recommendations, parent requests, or student self-selection. However, evidence suggests that these approaches may contribute to inequitable advanced course enrollment, particularly for Black students, Hispanic students, and students from low-income backgrounds.

The Partnership with Equal Opportunity Schools

AIR has a growing portfolio of projects that examine interventions designed to increase equitable enrollment into ACs in high school. The current project is a partnership with Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) examining its district partnerships that identify underrepresented students for ACs and provide schoolwide supports over a three-year period.

This project will conduct a mixed methods study that will accomplish the following objectives:

  • Build a more coherent knowledge base on EOS's intervention that strengthens educators' and system leaders' capacity to increase access, participation, belonging, and success in advanced courses for students of color and low-income students;
  • Advance research on robust equity and thriving by understanding how EOS’s intervention improves classroom and school environments so they are affirming, safe, and supportive learning environments that result in active engagement in deeper learning;
  • Promote a conceptualization of thriving that goes beyond succeeding, persevering, or being resilient. Thriving includes a sense of belonging, connectedness, affirmation, meaning, and agency, along with subjective well-being. Thriving is understood and interpreted through cultural lenses; and
  • Strengthen the foundation for AIR's partnership with EOS and for research in this area.