How To Get More Latinos Into Advanced Science and Tech Classes

Some Latino students have parents who are not familiar with the U.S. education system, and sometimes lack English-language proficiency. The reports suggests offering support to parents so that they are better equipped to help their kids enroll and succeed in AP courses. According to a 2010 Associated Press-Univision poll, just 20 percent of mainly Spanish-speaking parents say they are able to communicate "extremely well" with their child's school. The poll also showed that Hispanic parents were less likely to seek help from the school on their own. Outreach in Spanish, for example, would allow Spanish-speaking parents to be more involved in their student's education.

More AP teachers also need to be trained on how to teach advanced classes and engage kids who may be wary about enrolling in them.

Some states are already succeeding.

Maryland, which has the highest percentage of 2012 graduates who scored a three or higher on an AP exam during high school, took an interesting approach: they worked backwards.

The state started by looked at the knowledge and skills that a senior would need to pass an AP test. Officials then developed each year of high school curriculum to make sure that students acquired those skills bit by bit throughout high school.

In Florida, a state with a large percentage of Hispanic students, Latinos are actually slightly over-represented as AP test-takers. Nearly 25 percent of the high school seniors who graduated in Florida in 2012 are Hispanic, and 26 percent of Hispanic seniors took AP exams. More importantly, they succeeded at disproportionate levels. Nearly 30 percent of all Florida seniors who took AP exams and scored a three or higher in 2012 were Hispanic.

There are several national efforts underway to increase minority access to AP courses, and unsurprisingly, the tech industry is playing a role in recruiting more talented students to the courses that increase their likelihood of pursuing careers in STEM fields.

Take Google, for example. The tech giant partially funds a program called AP STEM Access, which is aimed specifically at increasing the number of minority students who take AP STEM classes. The idea is to get more schools to set up and maintain more science and technology classes in areas with high percentages of minority students.

"There are hundreds of thousands of talented students in this country who are being left out of the STEM equation," Jacquelline Fuller, director of Giving at Google, said in a statement when the grant was announced. "They're not being given the opportunity to find their passion or pursue today's most promising career. We're focused on creating equal access to advanced math and science courses, and ensuring that advanced classrooms become as diverse as the schools themselves."

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