‘We need more familiar faces:’ CMS students encourage more minority students to enroll in advanced courses

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools data showed a lower enrollment of Black and Hispanic students in college-level or advanced courses.
CMS data shows a much lower enrollment of minority students in these advanced courses. Our education reporter Courtney Cole spoke to students about the reason.
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 5:49 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Some Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students say their advanced level courses are lacking self-representation.

A CMS presentation in January examined five-year data of student performance and enrollment in college-level and advanced courses.

College-level or advanced courses were defined as Advanced Placement (AP) courses, International Baccalaureate (IB) courses, Dual Enrollment courses (taking a college course while in high school), and Cambridge courses.

CMS examined the percentage of students with weighted grade point averages (GPA’s) at or above a 3.0 who have never taken a college-level or advanced placement course.

The data was divided into subgroups by race who have a weighted GPA but have never taken a college-level or advanced course: 20% of Black students, 20% of Hispanic students, 8% of Asian students, and 9% of white students.

The district says this “[points] to an untapped group of students who could be successful in advanced coursework.”

Gabrielle Harris and Laksha Ramkumar are sophomores at Butler High School. They are still taking pre-requisites for AP courses, which they plan to take next school year. Harris is Black and Ramkumar is Indian.

Harris says she’s been a grade-level ahead in math since middle school and has taken other honors courses including English, History, and Civics.

Ramkumar is also in honors courses and aspires to be a pre-med student in college, so she’s planning to take AP science classes in addition to AP Literature over the next two years.

Both students say their classes, especially the honors courses, are filled with mainly white students.

“I’m thinking about it now it was all white people in those classes, in my civics class there was one Hispanic girl - that was it. I’m looking around and there’s nobody that looks like me,” Harris said.

Ramkumar says her school already has a low Indian student population.

Additional data shows current performance for 12th-grade students is “off track.” For the 2021-2022 school year 56% of 12th-grade students have passed or are on track to pass a college-level or advanced course. The district’s target for this year was to have 65% of students pass or be on track to pass.

Both students say they’re seeking higher GPAs and a challenge. Harris says it could be a variety of factors for why other minority students may not be enrolled in advanced courses.

“That just goes into maybe culture shock or things like that, maybe not wanting to step outside their comfort zone because there are people in the room who don’t look like you,” Harris said.

Ramkumar believes some students may not be enrolled because they aren’t informed about course opportunities, as for herself, she says her family instilled the importance of the courses into her at an early age.

“I was told at a young age that that’s what’s going to help me,” Ramkumar said.

Both students are encouraging their peers to enroll for better study skills and autonomy.

“When I get to college I want to be ahead because I hear of people talking about how rigorous college courses are,” Harris said.

Ramkumar says schools should better advertise courses and their benefits - and bring in professionals who took similar classes in high school.

“Just bringing in someone that’s experienced and had to go through that, just to motivate them,” she said. “I feel like if a student really wants to do that field it will motivate them more than any lecturer could.”

No matter their race, grade level, or circumstances - both students say their peers should take the leap and not limit their potential.

“I think if it’s a matter of a language barrier or you’re concerned socially, I would say just do it because there’s going to be other students who know what you’re going through.”

Every CMS High School offers 10 Core AP Courses.

For more information on which schools are designated as IB and the requirements, click here.

For more information on the CMS Career and College Promise Program, click here.

Cambridge is a schools-based program offered in different elementary, middle, and high schools. It is not a magnet and is not offered in the lottery. Students in Cambridge programs can also earn college credits.

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