Sponsored by Senator Cory A. Booker (D-NJ)
Endorsed by The Association for the Gifted, AASA – the School Superintendents Association, the Council for Exceptional Children, The Education Trust, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the National Association for Gifted Children, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Black Child Development Institute, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the National College Attainment Network, the National Education Association, SPAN Parent Advocacy Network, and UnidosUS
Black, Latino, and Native American students, students from low-income families, and students with disabilities are underrepresented in advanced programs and courses. While 1 in 10 students in American schools participate in the Advanced Placement (AP) program, just over 1 in 20 low-income, Black, and Native American students participate in AP. Less than 1 in 50 students with disabilities participate in AP. Taking Algebra I in eighth grade is necessary for most students to enroll in advanced math courses in high school; however, Black students are half as likely as White students to take Algebra I in eighth grade. A low-income student with reading and math achievement levels equal to those of a high-income student is half as likely to receive gifted services as the high-income student.
COVID-19 threatens to further reduce access to advanced courses and programs for underrepresented students, as budget cuts force districts, especially those in low-income communities, to lay off teachers and eliminate curricular offerings.
Over 700,000 additional Black and Latino students would be enrolled in advanced courses and programs if access to these learning opportunities were equitable.
Expanding advanced coursework offerings at schools predominantly serving underrepresented students is a critical first step to implementing advanced coursework equity. Simultaneously, many schools and districts must strengthen their practices for admitting students to advanced courses and programs. A major barrier for Black and Latino students to access advanced courses and programs is the overreliance on subjective criteria, such as the recommendation of teachers and counselors, in the advanced course admittance process. When Denver Public Schools implemented universal screening for Gifted & Talented programs, Latino students were identified for the program at twice the rate as the year before.
The Advanced Coursework Equity Act would establish an $800 million competitive grant program for states and school districts to increase the enrollment and performance of underrepresented students in advanced courses and programs.
- To be eligible for a grant, a state must form agreements with at least 50% of LEAs in the state, representing at least 50% of the students in the state, to receive subgrants and fulfill the program requirements, which include:
- Establishing an ambitious 3-year goal, and intermediate annual targets, for bridging inequities (according to race, sex, socioeconomic status, disability status, and English Language Learner status) in advanced coursework participation and performance
- Specifying the equitable enrollment mechanism that the LEA will utilize for its advanced courses and programs: open enrollment, universal enrollment, or universal screening
- School districts not seeking a state subgrant may apply directly to the U.S. Department of Education for a grant
- The bill would authorize $800 million to be allocated over 3 years
- Grants would range from $1 million to $60 million
- States and districts that perform the strongest on annual intermediate targets will be eligible for a bonus
- Grants are to be used for a variety of purposes, including:
- Implementing open enrollment, universal enrollment, or universal screening for all advanced courses and programs
- Expanding enrollment in advanced courses and programs, including by launching new courses
- Purchasing curriculum & materials for advanced courses & covering exam fees of low-income students
- Training or hiring teachers to teach advanced courses
- Annual reporting requirements and a required evaluation from the Secretary at the end of the 3-year cycle