Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Interactive Impact of Race and Gender on High School Advanced Course Enrollment

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

The Interactive Impact of Race and Gender on High School Advanced Course Enrollment

Article excerpt

Data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction archive are used to assess the joint effect of race and gender on advanced academic (advanced placement and honors) course enrollment within a school district with an open enrollment policy. Using student SAT scores; the authors compare expected levels of advanced course enrollment for White and Black males and females to actual advanced course enrollment. The results generally reveal race to be a stronger predictor of class enrollment than gender. White students, regardless of gender, tend to enroll in advanced academic courses at a higher rate than do Black students. However, when comparing actual to expected enrollment based on average SAT scores, there does appear to be a gendered difference within each racial category. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings framed by an open enrollment policy are discussed.

Keywords: racial achievement gap, educational inequality, academic disparities, AP high school courses, accelerated academic programs


Government regulations have attempted to remove many racial and gender barriers to educational attainment. In general, the academic gap that separates men and women has greatly declined (U. S. Bureau of me Census, 2000). Young adult women are now as or more likely to graduate from high school, complete college and earn graduate degrees than men (U. S. Bureau of the Census, 2000). Nevertheless, women and men are still overrepresented in traditionally "feminine" academic areas (e.g., education and English) and "masculine" areas (e.g., math and physical sciences), respectively. Such gendered differences appear subtle but have practical consequences, including persistent distinctions in occupational placement and unequal earning potential (Charles & Bradley, 2002).

Regarding race, the education gap that separates Black and White students appears slower to close than me division between the sexes. White students score significantly higher on achievement tests than their African American counterparts at all levels of education (Bali & Alvarez, 2003; Bankston & Caldas, 1997; Jencks & Phillips, 1998). Schools remain racially segregated and unequally funded (National Center for Education Statistics, 2003), and minority students continue to be underrepresented in honors and advanced placement (AP) classes (U. S. Department of Education, 1999). In higher education, African American students suffer higher attrition rates than White students and are not equally represented (Farley, 2005).

While a great deal of research has implicated the independent effects of race and gender, much less has examined the combined impact of race and gender on educational attainment despite acknowledgement in the literature of the importance of studying the interactive impact of the two (Collins, 2000; Dugger, 1988; Kane, 1992; Zinn & Dili 1996). Research that has assessed educational differences based on both race and gender has typically found Black females to perform better than Black males yet still lag behind White females (Holland, 1991; Kesner, 2002; Roderick, 2003; Rollock, 2007).

The purpose of this article is to consider race and gender together to assess whemer their interaction creates distinct participation rates in a key academic area: advanced academic high school courses. These authors use data from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction data archive to assess participation rates in advanced academic classes among White males, White females, Black males and Black females. Student enrollment and success in advanced classes is especially important because the results of these courses are included in college admission criteria (Klopfenstein, 2004) and students who are successful in AP and honors courses are more likely to succeed in and graduate from college (Burdman, 2000). However, research suggests that race and gender inequalities persist in AP enrollment and AP exam scores (JBHE Foundation, 2004; Klopfenstein, 2004; Venkateswaran, 2004). …

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