Our Shattering Expectations initiative examines how our nation’s schools are serving high-achieving students of color and students from low-income backgrounds.

Black and Latino students across the country experience inequitable access to advanced coursework opportunities. They are locked out of these opportunities early when they are denied access to gifted and talented programs in elementary school, and later in middle and high school, when they are not enrolled in eighth grade algebra and not given the chance to participate in Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB), and dual enrollment programs.

But disparities in access to advanced coursework are not inevitable.

In this brief, we look at ways Black and Latino students are locked out of advanced coursework opportunities, diagnosing the particular types of barriers our school systems put in their way, and offer actionable solutions for state, district, and school leaders.

Colleges are the pipeline to good jobs and the middle class, yet for many students of color and students from low-income backgrounds, a higher education degree remains out of reach. High college costs are a major factor, but a lack of access to advanced courses is another all-too-common barrier.

Read what four students had to say about the benefits of their advanced coursework classes.

The national data are clear: more students of color are taking AP exams, but success rates for these students lag behind those of their peers.

Systems for Success: Thinking Beyond Access to AP” explores the practices of two diverse high schools that have achieved the dual goals of enrolling more students in AP courses and supporting students of color and low-income students to pass AP exams at rates well above the national average.

While gaps between student groups have narrowed over time at the below basic level of performance, gaps at the advanced level have widened. And among higher income groups, gap-widening between white students and students of color is more pronounced. Educators seeking to close gaps must raise the bar for all students.

Programs like Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) are designed to provide high school students with challenging academic course work and a head start on a college education. But despite aggressive efforts to expand participation, there remain significant differences in the rates at which students from different racial and economic groups gain access.

Nationally, many students of color and students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds perform among the top 25 percent of all students in reading and math at the beginning of high school. Many of them, however, leave high school with lower college success markers than their high-achieving white and more advantaged peers. Schools can take action to better serve these students.

A series of blog posts where high-achieving students share their experiences in class and at school.