- Students of color are less likely to pass basic algebra, according to new federal data, and some experts suggest it reflects a broader problem with black and Latino students not being represented in math and science programs or on track to participate in advanced classes, EdSource reports.
- The report, issued by the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, showed that only 11% of students enrolled in algebra 1 are black, when they make up about 17% of the overall 8th-grade enrollment, while Latinos make up 18% of the students in basic algebra but are 25% of the entire student body. It also showed that while 85% of white students passed algebra 1 in 8th grade, only 65% of black students and 74% of Latino students did the same.
- The data, gathered from some 17,3000 school districts, backs up evidence that minorities are less likely to be in STEM programs because of a lack of resources and equipment in their schools, less access to early education, and low expectations in those subjects.
Another recent study, from the American Educational Research Association, also found significant gaps in science knowledge between white and minority children, concluding that income inequality and segregation “contribute to science achievement gaps throughout the elementary and middle grades."
Other research has shown that only 11% of students learning English are in schools that offer advanced math courses, and that those students are not likely to be enrolled in them. It offered specific recommendations to address the problem, including reducing time away from science class for English language learning and including STEM instruction in classes teaching English.
Another report suggested that schools too often discourage Latino students from taking college preparatory coursework. Due to limited funding and resources, some experts say schools with high minority populations are less likely to offer higher level math and science programs.
A program called Pathways based at San Diego State University has been helping some 4,000 minority high school students each year, primarily in math and science, by connecting them with undergraduate college students as tutors who work through school classrooms.
The Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators reported recently that a serious shortage in math teachers that disproportionately affects low income schools could be resolved with better pay, since potential teachers are attracted to other fields where they can earn more. It also recommends scholarships and loan forgiveness, as well as changes to human resource policies and better support for new math teachers.