Giving Compass' Take:

• New federal data reveals that Black and Latino students have less access to math and science classes.

• How can philanthropy work to change this imbalance? To what extent do unconscious bias and racist culture impede the progress of students of color? 

• Learn 4 steps toward addressing the STEM teacher shortage.


Latino and African-American students were less likely to pass algebra 1 and less likely to attend high schools that offer advanced math or science classes than their white and Asian peers, according to new data released by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Ryan Smith, executive director of Education Trust-West, an Oakland-based education policy nonprofit, said the new federal data “is maddening.”

“We have math and science geniuses in our low-income communities and in schools that serve students of color. We need to give those students the tools to thrive,” he said. “This should be at the center of our conversation when we talk about equity.”

The data, based on the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection survey of U.S. public schools reveals the following:

  • African-American students make up 17 percent of the overall 8th-grade enrollment, but only 11 percent of those enrolled in algebra 1.
  • Latinos made up 25 percent of the overall enrollment but only 18 percent of those taking algebra 1.
  • Eighty-five percent of white students passed algebra 1 in 8th grade, while only 65 percent of African-American students did.
  • Asian and Latino students were nearly tied, at 74 percent and 72 percent respectively.

Smith pointed to several reasons for the disparities, including:

  • Funding inequities that leave some schools with well-equipped classrooms and science labs and others without.
  • A shortage of experienced math and science teachers at schools that serve students of color.
  • Inadequate preschools and daycares that leaves many low-income, African-American and Latino students unprepared for kindergarten and unable to catch up academically.
  • Low expectations, or “the belief that black and brown children can’t do math and science,” Smith said.

Read the full article about inequities in math and science classes by Carolyn Jones at EdSource.