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Fewer Minority Students Enrolled In Honors Courses

Washington school districts should examine why more minority students are not taking honors classes, including whether students choose to avoid the classes, aren’t qualified for them or are steered away from them, a new study released this week recommends.

Minority students in Spokane and other Washington school districts miss out on pre-college classes in high school, the report concluded.

The low numbers of minority students in advanced classes help explain why those students don’t go to college or succeed at the same levels as white students, the study said.

The study looked at Spokane School District 81 and seven other districts with high minority enrollments. The state Commission on African American Affairs conducted the study with the University of Washington.

The Spokane numbers reported in the study are for the 1992-93 school year.

That year, 13 percent of white high school students were enrolled in the Spokane district’s honors program. Twelve percent of Asians were enrolled, 6 percent of Hispanics, 5 percent of blacks and 3 percent of Native Americans.

A total of 962 students were in honors classes out of 8,120 high school students that year. The classes include calculus, chemistry and advanced English.

“Schools need to think about this and reach out to families who are not experienced in what college requires,” said Eugene Edgar, the University of Washington education professor who conducted the study.

All colleges don’t require the advanced courses, but students who take them are better prepared for college-level work, he said.

“The message for all parents is: Become aware of programs and options and opportunities of high school,” Edgar said. “Probe, ask questions, talk to your kids about what they want to do when they leave high school and make sure they are taking full advantage of options at high school,” Edgar said.

A District 81 citizens committee reported similar data in its 1993 and 1994 “equity report card.” The Spokane committee recommended the district ensure its qualification requirements for gifted and honors programs are free of bias.

Jennifer Roseman, a Spokane committee member and a member of the state Commission on African American Affairs, said many parents don’t know about the district’s gifted and honors programs.

“We need to let parents and the communities in on what’s going on with those programs and how we can expand them and how we can have access to them,” Roseman said.