Poster Paper: Making the Grade: Who Gets in to Advanced Academic Courses Among Ethnically Diverse, Low-Income Youth

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Exhibit Hall C - Exhibit Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Courtney Ricciardi and Adam Winsler, George Mason University

Academically advanced courses (i.e., honors and Advanced Placement) have been shown to be related to better academic outcomes, college attendance, and graduation rates. However, access to these courses is not equal across income/racial groups, and school systems are trying a variety of policy strategies to increase student diversity in advanced coursework. The current study evaluates which, and how many, students among an ethnically and economically diverse population are obtaining entrance to advanced courses and how their demographic characteristics, readiness at school entry, and academic competence at the end of elementary school increase or decrease their chances of enrolling in these courses.

Longitudinal data from the Miami-School Readiness Project (MSRP) were analyzed. Five cohorts (2002-2006) of 4-year-olds attending a subsidized pre-K program in Miami-Dade County were followed longitudinally throughout high school and authentic, administrative student-level outcome data were provided by the school district. Students who had individual school readiness assessment data (social behavioral, cognitive, language, & motor skills) at age 4 and arrived to at least one grade 6th through 11th were included (N= 32,885). This sample mirrors the diversity of the community (51.7% male, 81% free/reduced lunch, 57.4% Hispanic/Latino (N=18,870), 32.2% Black (N=10,574), 6% White/Other (N= 1,965), and .55% Asian (N=183).

School transcript data indicated student enrollment in a variety of advanced (ADV, Honors, Advanced Placement, Pre International Baccalaureate, and International Baccalaureate) classes in middle school (grades 6-8) and high school (grades 9-12). Prior school performance measures included 5th grade standardized tests and GPA, gifted status, and retention. Descriptive and 3-step (demographics, school readiness indicators, the elementary school performance indicators) hierarchical logistic regression analyses revealed that each previously indicated predictor was bivariately related to enrollment in advanced courses, and many continued to be predictive in the multivariate model. When just looking at ethnicity, a clear disparity exists such that only 58% of Black students in the sample enrolled in an advanced class between the grades of 6 and 11, but more than 75% of the White students and almost 90% of Asian students enrolled. The pattern is less clear when bivariately examining the relationship between poverty and advanced course taking, where the group contributing the highest proportion of students was those receiving reduced price lunch (compared to free or no receipt).

Multivariately, boys were initially less likely to be enrolled in advanced courses compared to girls, but this was no longer true after factoring in academic skills in 5th grade. Controlling for academic competence before arriving to middle school, boys were actually more likely to enroll in advanced courses in middle and high school compared to girls. Similarly, Black and Latino students were less likely to enroll in an advanced class when looking exclusively at demographic factors, or when including demographics and school readiness, but no longer true once elementary school competence was accounted for. Being gifted, having a high GPA, and high standardized test scores were related to higher odds of advanced course enrollment. Interestingly, skipping a grade was not related to the odds of advanced course enrollment.