When it comes to AP classes, it's the haves and have nots in CMS - | WBTV Charlotte

When it comes to AP classes, it's the haves and have nots in CMS

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Some parents and students say there is an equity problem in Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) District. What is offered at one high school is not offered at all CMS high schools when it comes to Advanced Placement (AP) Courses.

"I would be interested in AP psychology," Harding University Student Jayla Green said. "AP Music Theory, AP Environmental Science, AP Chemistry, and AP United States History."

Those courses are not offered at Harding University High School. But they are offered at South Mecklenburg High School. South Mecklenburg High offers 30 AP courses while Harding only offers five. Green thinks that disparity shows what the district thinks of students at her school.

"They stereotype us as if we don't want to learn," Green said. "We just want to fool around."

The records show other schools with more resources and higher socioeconomic students have more classes to choose from. Schools like Myers Park High School offers 26 AP courses, Providence High School has 29 and Ardrey Kell High School offers 27.  Schools like West Charlotte High School offers eight AP courses, Garinger High School 10, Vance High School nine, and West Mecklenburg High School 11. Various schools double or nearly triple the number of AP courses offered at high poverty schools.  

"That's not fair," Jayla's mother Kenyata McCoy said.  "They can do better - they should do better and if they have the resources to have AP Courses on that side - why can't we get the same resources to have AP classes on this side."

Daughter and mother believe what's offered at one CMS school should be offered at all schools.

"We need more tools at Harding," Jayla said. "So that kids can be more focused."

CMS says for schools to get AP courses it depends on how many students sign up for the courses, student achievement, and student and parent interest. Advocacy groups have been challenging CMS for years to have more AP classes offered at high poverty schools. Dee Rankin is the education chair of the Charlotte Black Political Caucus.

"We know that there is an equity problem in CMS," Rankin said. "Every student is not receiving the same education. Every student cannot even be competitive."

When a student takes an AP class, their Grade Point Average (GPA) is weighted and they earn a college credit. If a student passes AP courses, not only can they get higher than a 4.0 GPA but they also get college credits before graduating from high school. Rankin says it's hard for a student with little to no AP courses on their transcript to compete with students who do take AP classes at their schools. It’s easy for some students to get left behind.

"Education can help some of our students come out of poverty," Rankin said.

"But they can't even compete when they graduate from high school to get in some of these state schools. Most of them require you be above a 4.0 to be considered in these schools."

CMS says if an AP class isn't offered at a high school then it should be offered online. Rankin argues studying for that AP class at home could be a challenge. 

"Every student doesn't have the same capability virtually when it comes to internet," Rankin said. "When it comes to computer access, so virtually that may be a problem."

CMS School Board Chairperson Mary McCray says lack of AP classes in certain school was an issue for her back in 2013. She saw the recent offerings and says she is disappointed schools are still lacking when it comes to AP classes, but she understands. She says it has to do with where students live. McCray also adds that shouldn't be an excuse.

"When your neighborhood is one that doesn't lean on opportunity for your students that live there," McCray said. "Then you are going to have those disparities and we as a district have got to talk about ways that we can somehow overcome this."

McCray says the school district needs to do better to prepare students in middle schools to tackle AP courses in high schools. She also says school counselors should be identifying students for AP classes. The counselors should also make sure if a student is interested in an AP class and it is not offered at their school, then school staff should be an advocate for the student.

"I would challenge the counselor and the admins to say," McCray said. "Are you providing - are you steering, guiding these students into an area where you know they can be successful or are you just sitting back saying - we don't have the numbers so no point in telling kids about this."

McCray is challenging CMS superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox to make sure CMS schools are separate but equal.

"The equity comes in access," McCray said. "We've got to make sure the access is there."

CMS Superintendent weighs in on AP classes not being offered at all CMS schools. 

"I don't know if you should be offering the same class," CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox said. "But I do know you should have access to higher level classes."

CMS is now working with a third party to help the district ensure that all schools are getting a fair chance when it comes to AP classes. Wilcox says he doesn't want to set students up for failure, so he wants to make sure if an AP class is offered at a school, students attending that school will be able to get the support needed to be successful in that AP class. 

"Do we have an opportunity for kids to get tutoring," Wilcox said. "We have some kids in this community they just can go down to Sylvan Learning or somewhere else cause mom or dad can just write a check - a lot of kids can't - so if we are going to offer some of those same classes, we've got to make sure we can offer that tutoring for those kids."

Charlotte's top educator says he will be tackling some of the inequities students are confronting at their schools very soon.

"We are going to try to address some of those things through the budget process," Wilcox said.

AP classes aren’t the only thing that’s offered at schools to challenge students. There are Career Technical Education classes that are offered and Honors Classes and International Baccalaureate Curriculum. 

People in the community say that is nice but want CMS to give students a chance at taking AP classes that aren't not offered at their schools.

"If these students were given the opportunity to learn the information," Rankin said. "Then I know they can perform, but they don't even give them the opportunity to take the classes."

If you would like to see which AP classes are offered at CMS high schools, click here.

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