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Ask A REL Response

October 2017


What research has been conducted regarding the Office of Civil Rights resolution agreements that address whether African American students are provided equal access to and an equal opportunity to participate in rigorous college and career preparatory courses within the district? More specifically, are there model approaches to these agreements?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles relating to whether African American students are provided equal access to and an equal opportunity to participate in rigorous college and career preparatory courses. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed the effects of model approaches to these agreements. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

  1. Frankenberg, E., Ayscue, J. B., & Tyler, A. C. (2016). Diversifying high schools in racially changing suburban districts: Expanding opportunity, creating barriers? Peabody Journal of Education, 91(3), 383-403.
    From the abstract: "Although demographic change is happening more rapidly at the elementary school level, the intersection of these demographic trends with the changing mission of high schools may offer the opportunity to reduce some of the persistent racial gaps in educational attainment. At the same time, when schools became diverse as desegregation took place, stratification within schools occurred, leading to inequality within diverse schools. Thus, this article seeks to examine whether high schools can help to expand opportunity for low-income students and students of color as suburban racial change occurs. To answer this question, this article draws on school-level interviews in six public high schools in racially changing suburban districts in some of the nation's largest metropolitan areas. High schools in this study focused on ways to provide access to diverse students through structural reforms and information dissemination, yet they also saw academic programs as a way to compete for certain students to shape their student body composition and maintain enrollment."
  2. Hubbard, L., & McDonald, M. (2014). The viability of combining academic and career pathways: A study of linked learning. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 19(1), 1-19.
    From the abstract: "In an attempt to reform high schools and prepare students with the knowledge and skills needed for the 21st century, educators and policymakers have turned to programs that combine career and academic pathways. One such program, Linked Learning, has taken up the reform challenge by relying on technical adjustments, rearranging students' schedules, and integrating career technical education (CTE) with a set of courses that support students' eligibility for their state and university college system. Linked Learning has attempted to avoid the pitfalls often associated with an earlier vocational education model. This article reports findings from a year-long study of eight schools in five districts whose district leaders and principals have placed Linked Learning at the core of their platform for school reform. Interviews with these educators reveal that while changing the structure of students' course schedules offered some advantages for students, school principals were challenged to keep their academic and career promises. This qualitative investigation has shown that to understand reform challenges it is essential to examine the broader school, district, and state context in which the reform is embedded. Both structural and cultural considerations must be addressed if high school reform is to more effectively support students."
  3. Kerr, R. (2014). "Advanced classes? They're only for white kids": How one Kansas school is changing the face of honors and advanced placement courses. Action in Teacher Education, 36(5-6), 480-489.
    From the abstract: "The purpose of this study was to obtain an accurate picture of minority student enrollment in honors and advanced placement (AP) classes at Wichita (Kansas) High School East and to develop a plan of action to close the achievement gap between White and non-White students. Prior to this study there was no clear, concise data to move this discussion into the solution phase. The research was conducted in 35 social studies classes ranging from Grade 9 to Grade 11 over the span of 1.5 years. Enrollment numbers, assessment scores, class grades, and teacher recommendations were collected from various building, district, and state resources. The final outcome of this action research was evident within a year yielding a clear pattern of growth in minority REL Southeast African American students' access to college preparatory courses -3 enrollment in International Baccalaureate (IB), honors, and AP classes at Wichita High School East."
  4. Martinez, M. A., Welton, A. D. (2014). Examining college opportunity structures for students of color at high-"minority," high-poverty secondary schools in Texas. Journal of School Leadership, 24(5), 800-841.
    From the abstract: "This study conducts an intersectional analysis of two adjoined qualitative studies, reanalyzing the data using a college opportunity framework (Gonzalez, Stoner, & Jovel, 2003) to examine how sources of social capital available within three high-"minority," high-poverty high schools in Texas shape college opportunities for Latina/o and Black high school students. Findings indicate that counselors and teachers were sources of college information and support while advanced courses prepared students for college-level curriculum. However, these same support mechanisms often deterred students' access to quality academic preparation and college information. The increased focus on state-mandated accountability measures at the schools also limited students' level of academic preparation and college access. Additionally, state college access policies designed to increase the college participation of underrepresented groups effectively accomplished this policy intent, but these same policies influenced students' college choice decisions."
  5. Minor, E. C. (2015). Classroom composition and racial differences in opportunities to learn. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 20(3), 238-262.
    From the abstract: "Black and White advanced math students leave high school with disparate math skills. One possible explanation is that minority students are exposed to different learning opportunities, even when they are taking classes with the same title. Using a convenience sample of the Mathematics Survey of the Enacted Curriculum (SEC), this study found that math teachers in classrooms with a minority racial composition spend their instructional time emphasizing different topics and instructional tasks than teachers in classrooms that have a predominately White racial composition. Racial differences continue to exist when school socioeconomic level and teacher-reported classroom achievement level are included. Students in classrooms with minority racial compositions have different learning opportunities compared to those of their peers, which may explain racial differences in returns to advanced math course-taking."

Additional Organizations to Consult

  1. Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) -
    From the website: "The Association for Career and Technical Education® (ACTE) is the largest national education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for careers. The Association for Career and Technical Education was founded in 1926, when a Coca-Cola cost a nickel, Calvin Coolidge was president and 10 years after the federal government began funding "vocational education" through the Smith-Hughes Act."
  2. College & Career Readiness & Success Center -
    From the website: "The College and Career Readiness and Success Center (CCRS Center) is dedicated to ensuring all students graduate high school ready for college and career success. The mission of the CCRS Center is to serve Regional Comprehensive Centers in building the capacity of states to effectively implement initiatives for college and career readiness and success. Through technical assistance delivery and supporting resources, the CCRS Center provides customized support that facilitates the continuous design, implementation, and improvement of college and career readiness priorities."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Resolution agreements, African American students, equal access to college preparation courses
  • African American students, college and career course accessibility
  • Minority group high school students, educational opportunities

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.