Illustration by Karina Takayama
On Monday, M-A’s Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program hosted a panel to tackle M-A’s issue of lack of diversity in Advanced Standing (AS) and Advanced Placement (AP) classes due to education disparities in feeder schools. Integration of M-A’s diverse community has been a long-standing issue, however it has become more prominent in honors classes. In hopes to encourage students of different backgrounds, M-A’s administration and the AVID team partnered up to hold panels to discuss student experiences in honors classes and the best ways feeder school districts, such as Ravenswood, could prepare its own students for M-A.
Junior AVID student Tiffany Valencia commented, “The AVID panel was formed by the leaders of the school like Mrs. Kennel and the AVID team in hopes of addressing one of M-A’s current goals around helping students of color be successful in honors courses.”
AVID teacher Mallory Byrne explained that “the main goal of the panel was for students to be able to share how they feel while they are enrolled in advanced classes on campus and for teachers to truly hear them.”
AVID teacher Erika Shepard added, “The original idea behind the panel came from one of the school goals, which is ‘to devise ways to increase access to higher-level classes for traditionally underserved and underrepresented students in a more equitable manner to ensure that all students have access to the entire program of available options.’”
Some students felt uncomfortable as the only minority students in their honors class. Valencia said, “During freshman year, I was very uncomfortable in my honors classes, but now, I am learning to surmount those feelings. Many of my AVID peers avoid honors classes because they steer clear of any uncomfortable environments.”
Junior Tyler Chan added, “I do know some people who do feel really uncomfortable in their honors courses. I don’t want to speak for them, but from what I’ve heard, there’s always an issue with being the minority and feeling left out.” The panel was meant to showcase certain experiences that a lot of M-A students have and how M-A can help those in honors classes while providing other feeder schools advice as to how they can prepare their own students for M-A honors classes.
“I don’t think anything particularly new or surprising was said [in the panel], but it never hurts to take a moment to reflect on your effectiveness as a teacher and the small things that we can do that could make a huge difference for our students,” said Shepard.
Byrne articulated, “As an AVID teacher, I believe all AVID students should be pushing themselves and enrolling in honors and advanced courses. Every student on campus should find a subject that they enjoy and enroll in an advanced course on the same subject… Every student should have an equal opportunity for classes in a public school.”
Chan proposed that “there needs to be more encouragement to take advanced courses. Students currently enrolled in these classes or the actual teacher could come in and give some insight into what exactly the class pertains to. For me, the scariest part of taking an advanced class was that I didn’t know what to expect. I think that getting some insight before actually making the decision to join the class would help people shake off any reluctance or nervousness.”
Shepard concluded, “I do think there is a lot of work that needs to be done still on the subject, but I think this [the panels] was an important step in the right direction.”