How access to information and enrollment practices can hold students back from taking advanced courses

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Across New York State, many Black, Latinx, and American Indian students and students from low-income backgrounds do not have access to advanced courses or are underenrolled in such courses. Bill S.1111A/A.4407A , which is up for consideration, would improve access and is critical to preparing students for careers, college, and civic life. The New York Equity Coalition hosted discussion groups with students to hear why this equity issue is so critical. The three-part Equitable Access Now blog series shares what they had to say in their own words. 

Although Dexter, a 12th grade student, was offered a chance to take Algebra 1 in eighth grade, his school did not explain how it could lead to college classes and advanced courses later down the line.  

“We were all unaware of just how important passing that class was so lots of fellow students didn’t take it as seriously and didn’t get the opportunity to take AP courses in high school,” he said.  

Enrollment practices, how information is disseminated to students and families about taking advanced coursework, and whether or not a school offers advanced courses are a few barriers to whether or not students are enrolled early on — or enrolled when they would like to be. However, Bill S.1111</span/A.4407, if passed this legislative session, would tackle these problems by improving  how information is shared to families. 

“I’ve noticed that the students who are in more advanced courses aren’t necessarily the kids who love the subject or those who would excel in it,  but those who had opportunities previously,” said Julia, a 12th grade student. “The more influence their parents had, the more they got pushed into that course.”  

Students like David, an 11th grade student, and his family, have been able to access information about enrolling in advanced coursework because he attended the same school as his siblings, but not all his peers were in the know.  

“Kids who didn’t know that they had to have a certain GPA to get into the advanced program didn’t really try as hard as they could,” David said. “But my sisters were already there, so I really tried my best and knew what to do.” 

Enrollment practices, in addition to information sharing, can also influence what subjects a student takes, or altogether limit a student from moving up to more advanced courses, as Anthony, a graduate, experienced.  

When Anthony was in eighth grade, he was supposed to take Algebra 1. But too many eighth graders were enrolled at his school, so he was not placed in the class. Instead, he took Algebra 1 in ninth-grade and 10th grade because his high school split the course into two years, which resulted in him ‘learning the same thing over and over again.’   

“At the time I was upset, I did like math…how did I not get that opportunity?” he said. “I thought it was preposterous only because I wanted to take it in eighth grade.” 

Currently, there is no mandate about when and how families receive information about the importance of these classes, which would have been beneficial in Anthony’s case.  

Bill S.1111A/A.4407A would change this by ensuring school districts provide every family with clear and concise information, in multiple languages, beginning in the late elementary grades about the courses their child can take in middle and high school to prepare for college, careers, and civic engagement — including the benefits of enrolling in advanced courses and the support available. 

Advanced courses prepare students for college, careers, and active citizenship. Students across New York should not experience barriers to accessing advanced coursework — and passing Bill S.1111A/A.4407A through the New York State legislature is one step to making that happen. 

Explore the data and learn more about this critical equity issue in New York State and how you can get involved.