Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The School Counselor's Role in Addressing the Advanced Placement Equity and Excellence Gap for African American Students

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The School Counselor's Role in Addressing the Advanced Placement Equity and Excellence Gap for African American Students

Article excerpt

This study describes the collaboration among a school counselor, a school counselor intern, an Advanced Placement Psychology teacher, and a counselor educator to improve African American access to Advanced Placement (AP) coursework and increase success on the AP Psychology national examination. The team initiated a process that recruited African American students into AP Psychology and supported them through group and individual counseling to create an achievement-minded cohort that emphasized peer relationships and academic success.

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In its Annual AP Report to the Nation, the College Board, for years, has highlighted the glaring gap in both access and success for African American students in Advanced Placement (AP) programs (College Board, 2008; College Board, 2011a; College Board, 2012). African American students are underrepresented in AP programs at state and national levels, and often achieve significantly lower scores on the Advanced Placement Examination than any other subgroup (College Board, 2012).

Such inequity in access and excellence has a long-term deleterious effect for African American students. Students who earn a passing score on an AP examination in high school have consistently higher college grade point averages and higher 4-year graduation rates than students who did not participate in the program (Dougherty, Mellor, & Jian, 2006; Hargrove, Godin, & Dodd, 2008; Morgan & Klaric, 2007). For minority students, the impact is even greater. A U.S. Department of Education study concluded that African American, Latino, and low-income students are three times more likely to earn a bachelor's degree if they even attempt an AP class in high school (Adelman, 2006).

Not only do school counselors have the important role of demonstrating that their comprehensive school counseling program is closing such gaps in achievement, but in most high school settings, school counselors are gatekeepers to Advanced Placement programs (American School Counselor Association [ASCA], 2012; Ndura, Robinson, & Ochs, 2003; Ohrt, Lambie, & Ieva, 2009). Because of the school counselor's often critical role in AP enrollment, researchers have suggested that school counselors are in a unique position to reverse institutional barriers and challenge the deficit thinking that propagates the AP equity and excellence gaps for African American students (Ndura et al., 2003; Ohrt et al., 2009).

School counselors can use their influence to implement a holistic approach that challenges systemic barriers to AP access, promotes collaboration among educators, and provides a system of counseling interventions to bolster student achievement (Camizzi, Clark, Yacco, & Goodman, 2009; Steen & Noguera, 2010; Tucker, Dixon, & Griddine, 2010). Camizzi and colleagues (2009) found that school counselors played an integral role in encouraging the selection of more rigorous coursework among minority and economically disadvantaged students. Furthermore, Akos and Ellis (2008) encouraged school counselors to assist in the academic and racial identity development of students through individual and systemic interventions.

This study describes the collaboration of a school counselor and school counselor intern with an Advanced Placement Psychology teacher and a counselor educator to improve African American access to Advanced Placement coursework and increase success on the AP Psychology national examination. The team, in cooperation with school administration, initiated a process that systematically recruited African American students into AP Psychology by identifying African American students with untapped academic potential and supported the students by providing personal-social and academic interventions through an intensive 2-week summer program and weekly group counseling sessions throughout the school year. The support program included group and individual counseling with the dual goal of creating an achievement-minded cohort of African American students and developing the students' individual identities as scholars. …

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