Although many Black and Latino students aspire to go to college and are interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects, very few are actually enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) STEM courses that would prepare them for college and a career in STEM. When Black and Latino students are given advanced opportunities, they thrive alongside their peers. But in a report, Shut Out: Why Black and Latino Students Are Under-Enrolled in AP STEM Courses, The Education Trust and Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) found that only a fraction of eligible students is enrolled in AP Biology. However, only a fraction of eligible students is enrolled in AP Biology, Chemistry, and Physics courses, which means that most Black and Latino students are being denied vital learning opportunities that can set them up for success in college and careers.

Ed Trust’s research confirms what EOS find in their partner schools across the country: that educator bias and mindsets often limit which students get access to advanced STEM coursework. As a result, Black and Latino students are being sent a harmful message that advanced courses are not for them — or worse, that they are not smart enough to participate. It’s a dangerous perception that fuels the persistent opportunity gaps that exist in schools across the country.

Local school boards, district leaders, and school leaders have the power to implement policies and practices that can enable or inhibit access to advanced coursework for Black and Latino students, which is essential for increasing the number of people of color in STEM careers.

Here are five key questions that students, families, community members, and advocates can ask their district and school leaders to make sure they are creating equitable opportunities for Black and Latino students to engage and succeed in advanced STEM coursework:

  1. What are your goals for increasing access for Black and Latino students in advanced STEM courses, and what data do you collect and report to monitor progress towards those goals?  
  2. How do you identify, recruit, and enroll students in advanced coursework?  
  3. How do you regularly communicate with students and families about the benefits of and opportunities in advanced coursework, including how to be successful in advanced courses?  
  4. What training do you provide for teachers to ensure they are well-prepared to teach advanced courses?  
  5. How will you ensure advanced courses have a safe, equitable, and positive learning environment for all students?  

For details on what to ask district and school leaders and what to look for, download the brief.