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Report: Black, Latino students shut out of advanced learning

Youngstown City School District CEO Justin Jennings plans to start preparing students as early as third grade.
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(Getty Images)

YOUNGSTOWN — Black and Latino students are able to succeed in advanced coursework, but, in Ohio and other states, students of color often lack access to advanced learning, according to a recent report from the Education Trust. 

Education Trust policy analyst Kayla Patrick points to two causes:

  • Schools that serve mostly black and Latino students don’t enroll as many students in advanced classes as schools that serve fewer black and Latino students; 
  • Schools – especially racially diverse schools – deny black and Latino students access to those courses.

This problem is particularly severe in Ohio, where there are only 29 black students enrolled in gifted and talented programs for every 100 black students who would need to be enrolled for the state to achieve fair representation.

The report found that, to ensure fair representation, Ohio would need to double the number of black students in both elementary gifted programs and advanced-placement high school courses. 

To combat this access issue, Youngstown City School District CEO Justin Jennings plans to expand upon the policy of his predecessor, Krish Mohip

While the district lacks many Advanced Placement course offerings, leaders are placing emphasis on the Youngstown Rayen Early College High School program, which allows YCSD students to take courses at Youngstown State University. 

The Rayen Early College Middle School program starts in the fifth grade to prepare students to enter college courses in high school. Jennings plans to start preparing students as early as third grade.

This year, Rayen Early College Middle School enrolls 264 students, and Rayen Early College High School enrolls 273 students. 

"It's kind of like having somebody in band," said Jennings. "You want kids who have been playing instruments since the third grade."

In addition to starting preparing for the program young, Jennings focuses on access by refusing to use stringent requirements to shut students out of the program. 

"If a student doesn't have that GPA, we still give them the opportunity to be in [the program]," said Jennings. "My philosophy is, if they want to try it, they should have the opportunity to do that. We don't want them not to have access because of what we perceive."

The Education Trust report also provides recommendations for state leaders in tackling this issue. 

Patrick recommended that states set clear, measurable goals for access to advanced coursework, and use data to identify factors that may be preventing students of color from enrolling.