What can public schools do to support high-achieving, low-income students and students of color?

My son is enrolled in AP classes this year. I've noticed that his school tends to offer a lot of support for "at risk" students, but not as much for students in advanced classes. Is this simply based on the assumption that students in advanced classes will figure everything out for themselves, regardless of their background or the resources available to them?


Amy McElroy, Former Attorney, Writer, Editor, parent of a junior high and high school student

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This is an excellent question because you are right, there is an apparent assumption that kids who are enrolled in advanced classes--presumably because of high intelligence--will succeed, and don't need much guidance. However, some private programs have demonstrated how minority professionals can serves as role models with powerful results. For example, the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League teaches debate skills to minority high school students to prepare them more successfully for college.

Similar ideas should be implemented into the school curriculum, beyond Black History Month, which currently may be the only time a student is assigned literature written by a person of color. History and cultural lessons should include balanced perspectives of all the students to create a sense of empowerment.

The administration should always look out for any special needs of low income students, without any assumptions based on academic achievement, and make sure they students receive sufficient information about all the options for college and financial aid.

Matthew Clemens, Physics and Math Teacher, Parent, and Tutor

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This is a great question. I would very much suggest that you student seek help from those AP teachers, who I hope are willing to offer support. You are right that if a child is doing well academically, they don't get noticed as much when it comes to support services. The student's guidance counselor should be a great resource in helping your student connect with clubs or outside support activities as well. But really the best thing your student and family can do is ask for help when you need it.

Dylan Ferniany, Gifted and Talented Education Program Administrator

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The first thing to look at here is what might differentiate a low income student in an advanced class vs. a high income student. For one, AP course success often depends on the preparation leading up to it. So a student who may not have had a rigorous middle or elementary school experience may be ill-prepared for a college-level course. The low income student could have home factors that inhibit success in an AP class. For example if the teacher relies heavily on online resources and assignments, and the student does not have access to WiFi or is unable to get to the library each day. Another factor may be a distracting environment at home that is not conducive to studying. Or a low income student may be working a job that makes it hard to find the time to study. Another contributing factor may be the emphasis the adults place on AP. Many parents now may have taken AP themselves and have seen the benefit, but a parent of a low income student who may not have had access to AP courses may not understand the benefits of the program. All students are likely to experience academic struggle with AP so you are exactly right that supports should be provided for all students who are challenging themselves with Advanced Placement.

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