Diversity disparity: the low Hispanic/Latino enrollment in advanced courses

Hispanic+students+gather+in+the+cafeteria+during+first+lunch+on+Jan.+26.+%28Left+to+right%29+Isaias+Clemente%2C+Gisele+Perez%2C+Brian+Alcaraz%2C+Eduardo+Colin%2C+and+Pedro+Valdez.+Photo+by+Klaira+Zhang.

Klaira Zhang

Hispanic students gather in the cafeteria during first lunch on Jan. 26. (Left to right) Isaias Clemente, Gisele Perez, Brian Alcaraz, Eduardo Colin, and Pedro Valdez. Photo by Klaira Zhang.

Klaira Zhang, Reporter

School and District Response

Inglemoor’s 2021 Strategic Action Plan collected data schoolwide on how to ensure that students feel they are being treated equally and equitably, and as part of that it noted Hispanic/Latino students do not sign up for IB and AP courses at the rate of students of other ethnicities. Reasons for this differ for every student, but the district and school are working to provide optimal access and support in advanced courses for the Hispanic/Latino community in an effort to increase involvement. 

Elizabeth Meza, the Assistant Director at NSD for Family Engagement & English Language Development Services, said this problem is not unique to Inglemoor. 

“I think it’s a national problem, and there are factors beyond our school system that impact students’ ability and/or desire to move into advanced courses,” said Meza. “There are other factors beyond the school day that affect their success in school, and there are other stressors in their lives. Whether they are financial, or related to their parents’ educational background—all of those factors play into their abilities to see themselves as highly academic students.”

Although the administration recognizes that there are numerous reasons Latino students do not sign up for advanced courses at the rate of other ethnicities, the district proposes culturally responsive teaching and richer academic support starting in the elementary schools as a solution. However, movement towards these practices has been challenged by the pandemic. The district estimates that it will take several years until students will be able to see these strategies implemented in their schools. 

“Culturally responsive teaching helps students feel included and valued in their community. We know that, unfortunately, our students of color don’t feel like they   belong in classrooms when they don’t see their peers in them. When it’s just one or two, it’s really hard because then they feel really isolated and are more hesitant to go into a classroom when they feel like they don’t belong there,” said Meza. 

This year, Meza’s goal with family outreach is to focus on academics. She said she wants to provide students with earlier and easier access to challenging courses. This would mean increasing accessibility in Early Advanced Placement programs at the elementary level and Highly Capable programs at the middle school level. The idea is that, hopefully, when students reach high school, they will have friends with them in challenging course. IB Coordinator Christopher McQueen agrees that starting young is the key.

“In order to have IB biology, you need chemistry, which means you need to be in advanced math, which means if you didn’t get placed in the accelerated math track back in fourth grade, you’ve lost your chance,” McQueen said. “One of the things we’re trying to do is called the ‘IB for all’ philosophy, which means every student is an IB student. We made ninth grade pre-IB for all.” 

Although Latino engagement in higher level courses will likely be an ongoing challenge in schools across the nation, Meza and McQueen said they want to best prepare students for a college degree by mainstreaming advanced courses. 

“Whatever the reasons are, we can’t make excuses about it. We can’t blame families, we can’t blame cultures, we can’t blame poverty. What we need to do is… find a way to fix it,” McQueen said. “My primary goal would be to get people together—all the stakeholders—and say ‘how do we get it so that the percentage of Hispanic/Latino kids at Inglemoor is the same as the percentage of Hispanic kids in IB?’” 

 

Student Response

In the 2021-2022 school year, out of the 122 students enrolled in IB English 12, only seven identify as Hispanic. Students interviewed have pointed to similar systemic obstacles that obstruct them from taking advantage of the advanced courses offered. Such impediments include a tendency to stick with their friends, self-motivation, and financial barriers. 

“Most Hispanics get together with themselves most of the time just because it’s easier to communicate their own struggles when they know that they have someone who also goes through the same stuff as them,” said sophomore Valeria Jiminez*,  a student taking several advanced courses.

This situation is prevalent among most Hispanic and Latino students. Jiminez said that because Hispanic students often live in close proximity to each other or because of the friends they have made at school, they are less likely to reach out to people beyond their community for assistance. However, she said she strongly encourages her peers to seek outside help because of all the financial help she’s been able to receive. 

There are certain resources available to students and families for services and fees associated with school-related costs. School Counselor Devin Blanchard said in an email she wants students to know about the Inglemoor Care Team, a group led by counselors consisting of staff from all over the campus. 

“Care Team works to help those in our community struggling with financial concerns, ensuring students can receive various support for personal and classroom needs,” said Blanchard. “Students who are impeded by the financial aspects of pursuing AP or IB classes should plan to meet with their school counselor to discuss how Care Team  

might be able to help relieve any of the costs associated with these courses.” 

Additionally, the district has been holding family workshops to support Spanish  speaking families. These workshops teach families how to navigate essential academic tools such as Schoology and StudentVue. 

“My parents never got to graduate high school because that wasn’t an option for them then, so with a lot of families that don’t speak English, it’s hard for them to push their kids to stay on top of their school work,” said sophomore Natalia Canal, an IB Math and Spanish student. “Conferences are offered for people who speak Spanish so that parents can learn how to do things. That’s how my mom learned how to use StudentVue.”

Students say that having support at home with parents and having friends in IB/AP classrooms would highly promote engagement in these higher level courses among the Hispanic and Latino community. Registration occurs annually during the first week of March through students’ StudentVue accounts. Counselors encourage all students who are thinking about pursuing advanced courses to register. 

Junior Merari Sanchez-Cabrera, who currently takes IB English, IB History and IB Design Tech, described her experience of motivating a peer into signing up for advanced courses.

“One day, I was talking to my friend and she was like ‘you sometimes inspire me because I see you taking higher level classes and you pass them and I see you doing it so I know I can also do it.’ Having someone to inspire you and who understands the same culture really helps.” 

 

*Names with an asterisk have been changed in order to protect the identity of the individual **Results from the Inglemoor Registrar of self-reported ethnicity data from 122 students