Montclair has work to do with helping Latino and African American students to be represented in advanced classes.

A status update on participation in Montclair’s honors and AP courses, as well as the magnet program, was given at the Monday, June 18 BOE meeting.

Latino and African American students make up 41 percent of the total student population, but made up 36 percent of honors students during the 2017-2018 school year. This number declines in the high honors and AP classes, said Superintendent Kendra Johnson. For AP classes, only 18 percent of black and Latino students had completed at least one AP course during the 2017-2018 school year.

This raises questions about what courses are made available to students when they enter high school, as well as whether the school is doing a good job of informing parents of what options are open to their students.

Many students have high grades in their transcripts, Johnson said, but elect not to sign up for honors classes.

Some believe they have the capabilities to do well, but don’t feel that they would be welcome in advanced classes, Johnson contends.

Students have expressed a wish for additional support at school, including before school or during lunchtime, so they don’t have to rely on outside tutors. The school should develop a support system for those students, she said.

Montclair has been working to address the issue of a long-standing achievement gap between white students and Latino and African American students. Studies have found that black and Latino students are less likely to enroll in or be recommended for advanced courses than their white peers.

Recently, MHS saw the formation of the Black Student Union, a peer support group for students of color.

READ: Rejuvenated Black Student Union a positive force at Montclair High

READ: A look at Montclair's achievement gap

READ: Report reflects Montclair's diversity

Johnson presented a list of recommendations for bringing more Latino and African American students into honors and AP courses, including revising the counseling process, and improving the ways by which high-achieving students are identified and recommended for advanced classes.

There has also been a discussion of having an AP and Honors night for parents to help them learn about what the classes involve.

“We want to cast a wider net for students,” Johnson said.

Vice President Joe Kavesh wondered if there was a possibility of instituting a Pass/Fail system for AP and honors courses.

“Now you are really trying to shake up the apple cart. I love it,” Johnson replied. However, she said that many students sign up for AP courses in order to bolster their GPA, something that might not necessarily be the case with a Pass/Fail course.

Some of the board members asked if there was a way to find out more about what was causing students not to sign up for AP courses.

During the public comment period, audience member Kellia Sweatt said she was concerned that since the report dealt with the underrepresentation of African-American students in honors and AP courses, that the data was bundled among other types of data.

Sweatt said she was also interested in finding out more about the students who drop out of these classes, as well as the students who are not encouraged, or discouraged, from taking advanced classes to begin with.