AP Spanish help raise Hispanic students’ aspirations

iStock_000020536048XSmallHispanic students who took Advanced Placement (AP) courses in Spanish during their middle school years were more likely to form peer relationships that raised their educational aspirations, says a new study in the Journal of Advanced Academics.
Some schools have begun offering AP courses in the middle grades to get students on track for college earlier in their school years. When middle school students have the opportunity to take AP classes in Spanish, it helps them, their peers and teachers see their proficiency in speaking Spanish as an asset rather than a liability,’ says the study.

“Given the importance of both social and academic factors in influencing middle school students’ success, this study examines the effects of connecting students from Hispanic backgrounds to more academically supportive peers with the ultimate goal of increasing their educational aspirations,” the researchers write.

When the Waco Independent School District in Texas offered an AP course in Spanish to its 8th graders, 16 Hispanic males and 42 Hispanic females enrolled in the 4 participating middle schools. The average age of the AP students was 14.33 years In order to qualify for the AP Spanish Project, the 8th-graders had to be native Spanish speakers and economically disadvantaged.

In May of the 2005 academic year, students completed a 20-minute survey that was available in Spanish or English. The survey was adapted from the U.S. Department of Educational Statistics Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 Student Questionnaire. Researchers selected 28 items rated on a Likert scale that focused on the composition of peer group, sense of belonging at school, academic attitudes, tests and parental involvement. A random sample of 8th grade classes across the same 4 middle schools served as the comparison group. The comparison group included 18 males and 6 females.

Students in the AP group were more likely to report that they had close friends who cared about grades and to characterize reading English as “fun” compared with the controls. “The fact that more Latina females elected to enroll in the AP Spanish Language class is mirrored by a nationwide trend of females academically outperforming males,” the researchers report. A recent follow up of the 58 original students in the AP Spanish Language class found that the students continued to take advanced classes.

“Social Effects of Hispanic Students Enrolled in an AP Class in Middle School,” by Alexandra Shiu et al., Journal of Advanced Academics, Fall 2009, Volume 21, pp. 58-82.

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