Equity in Education: Minority Students' Participation in Honors/Advanced Placement Programs
Type of Degreedissertation
Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology
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Closing the achievement gap has been a goal of educators for many years (Ferguson, 1998; Haycock, 2001; NCES, 2005; Norman, Ault, Bentz, & Meskimen, 2001). Although a major concern for schools, districts, and states, there is insufficient research recommending specific strategies and interventions to increase the achievement of minority students and close the gap that separates them from their White peers. One of the contributing factors to the disparity in student achievement is the disproportionate number of minority students enrolled in honors and advanced placement courses (CollegeBoard, 2003; Darity, Castellino, Tyson, Cobb, & McMillen, 2001; Ndura, Robinson, & Ochs, 2003). While an abundance of studies report the impact the school environment has on minority student achievement (Alvidrez & Weinstein, 1999; Carbonaro, 2005; Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2005; Ferguson, 2003; Ogbu, 1986; Haycock, 1998; Herbert & Reis, 1999; Hunter & Smith, 2007; Schmidt, 2004; Schmidt, 2007; Stanley et al, 2004; Tennebaum & Ruck, 2007; Uline & Tschannen-Moran, 2008) little research exist specifying steps to increase minority students’ representation in honors and advanced placement courses (CollegeBoard, 2002; Darity et al, 2001; Ndura et al, 2003; ). This study used Invitational Theory to analyze the underrepresentation of minority students in honors and advanced placement courses at a high school located in the south eastern United States. Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected that gathered information on students’ perceptions of the school environment. Developed from Invitational Theory, the Program Access Student Survey (PASS) assessed the level to which students perceived their school as “inviting”. The study also sought to determine if students’ responses to PASS differed based on the level of curriculum received, students’ ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Finally, the study explored contributing factors related to students’ decisions to enroll (or not enroll) in honors/AP courses. ANOVA tests were statistically significant for ethnicity and level of curriculum received. With regard to ethnicity, scores for Hispanic, Multiracial, and White students were higher than scores for Asian, Black, and American Indian students, indicating that Hispanic, Multiracial, and White students held the school in a more positive regard than Asian, Black, and American Indian students. Regarding the level of curriculum received, students who were exposed to honors or advanced placement courses perceived the school more “inviting” than those who were not in the honors and AP curriculum. ANOVA tests found no difference in students’ perceptions of the school environment based on socioeconomic status. Students who received free and reduced lunch had similar scores as those who paid full price for lunch. According to the qualitative data analysis, students who chose to enroll in honors/AP courses had similar categorical responses as students not enrolled in honors/AP courses in terms of factors influencing their decision on the level of curriculum to take. The major themes reported were the individual teachers teaching the class, the level of encouragement received, expectations set, by either parent or teacher, and the level of rigor in the course. Results from the qualitative analysis also confirmed the six elements from Invitational Theory as being instrumental in minority students’ achievement and enrollment in honors and AP courses. The findings from this study can help educators understand students’ perceptions of the school environment as it relates to their decisions to enroll in the more rigorous courses. Although this study can not be generalized to other populations, it is recommended that educators use Invitational Theory as an appropriate framework to create and maintain successful schools, first gauging the school environment through the eyes of the students, and then taking intentional steps to identify areas of improvement with the goal of increasing minority students’ achievement and enrollment in honors and advanced placement courses.