Are we not challenging our students enough, or are opportunities not available? Many are wondering which is the case in the state of Oregon.
According to a U.S. Department of Education civil rights survey released last week, out of 4,000 African-American high school students in Oregon between 2009 and 2010, only somewhere between seven and 35 Black students took a calculus course.
Of the 50 schools that had at least 25 African-American students, only seven had any Blacks enrolled in calculus class. None of them had more than five Black students take the course.
It definitley makes one question: Why such the large disparity? Though in Oregon most students are not taking the course, many colleges, especially top-notch schools, prefer for the it to be taken before entering higher education.
"A strong academic foundation in high school both improves your odds of getting into MIT and will help you make the most of the Institute when you're here. We recommend that your high school years include...math through calculus," says MIT’s admission page.
“If you are well-versed in algebra, functions and graphing, secondary-school calculus will enable you to take more advanced introductory courses in mathematics, physics and chemistry in college,” says Harvard University’s admission website.
Not only is a strong math education important to many colleges, but to the White House also. In 2010, President Obama directed $250 million public-private dollars to increase the number and quality of science and math teachers.
Unfortunately, in Oregon it seems as if the number of calculus classes offered is not the problem. Portland Oregon’s Grant High has 375 students, the largest Black enrollment of any Oregon high school. Though they offer calculus classes, there were zero Black students enrolled that year.
Currently electrical engineering is the highest median earning degree for African-Americans with a bachelor degree. At the University of Michigan, one of the top-ranking engineering schools in the country, however, a total of five calculus college-level classes must be passed in order to graduate with an engineering degree.
District leaders say they are working hard to reverse the racial inequalities African-American students in Oregon are facing.
(Photo: Baltimore Sun/MCT/Landov)