Does taking away AP classes help or hurt Seattle’s students?

Oct 11, 2019, 10:06 AM | Updated: 10:07 am

Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Denise Juneau recently announced her intention to do away with accelerated programs for students by 2023, citing racial disparity as a driving factor. But is that throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or simply leveling the playing field?

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Juneau likened the racial disparity that exists in advanced placement programs to “educational redlining,” referring to a practice decades ago, where black families were denied home loans in affluent — and predominantly white — neighborhoods.

The fix for that situation wasn’t simply doing away with home loans altogether, notes KIRO Nights co-host Aaron Mason.

“When that was an issue, they didn’t get rid of bank loans — they actively, proactively, started lending to black people,” he described.

For Seattle’s schools to enact a similar fix, Mason argues, it’s a matter of depending less on standardized testing and more on finding better ways to identify gifted students.

“If you want to get these numbers in the right place … I think you need to do what I believe my teachers did with me, and that’s notice some kids,” he described.

“Take into account some of the other things that are going on,” Mason continued. “You might have a kid who’s sharp and and gifted, but his home situation might be messed up, or you know her folks are poor and she doesn’t get to eat, and so her performance suffers.”

Right now, 67 percent of children in the Seattle Public School district are white, while making up 47 percent of the population of students. Just 1.6 percent are black, despite comprising 15 percent of the student population.

Many theorize that socioeconomic factors come into play, from parents whose demanding jobs make them unable to be as attentive as they want, to kids who aren’t afforded opportunities based on social status.

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KIRO Nights co-host Gee Scott sees an alternative solution that goes beyond simply eliminating advanced placement programs.

“I think they need to do away with it,” he said. “Make it strenuous and tough for everyone. If you are in the second grade, then dang it put an emphasis on higher expectations of second graders.”

“I don’t want to take the opportunity away — I want to keep the opportunity there, but I want it to be for everyone,” he added.

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Does taking away AP classes help or hurt Seattle’s students?