Lee County, Alabama

Lee County, Alabama, home to Auburn University and a total population of around 140,000, has come to an agreement with the U.S. Education Department on equal access to Advanced Placement courses and high-level learning opportunities for African American students.

The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Education Department announced on September 10th the details of the agreement.   The goal is to ensure that all students, and African American students in particular, are afforded the opportunity to attend AP courses or dual-enrollment classes at the local community college.   According to the article, the school district will:

  • “Develop a comprehensive district-wide plan for addressing the underrepresentation of African American students in AP and higher level courses;
  • Identify any barriers to African American students’ participation in AP and higher level courses, and ensure that African American students have an equal opportunity for participation in the courses;
  • Permit students to participate in distance learning opportunities at schools providing more AP and higher level options;
  • Establish dual-enrollment courses with the local community college for students at the predominantly African American high school and provide transportation for all students who elect to take dual-enrollment courses;
  • Encourage students at all of the district’s elementary, middle, and high schools to aspire to attend college, and to participate in AP and higher level courses.”

The OCR investigated the county under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,which focused on equal opportunities to everyone in programs receiving federal financial assistance.  What the investigation revealed was an incredibly low number of African-American students on the math and science track in 8th grade geared for high school AP sciences or AP calculus.  In contrast, advanced math was offered in the predominantly white middle schools, and students were taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.  The predominantly white high schools, consequently offered more higher level classes in almost every department, whereas there were noticeably fewer courses in the predominantly black high schools.

The district is working hand in hand with the OCR to correct this wrong.  This is a first for the OCR, and I personally hope that it succeeds, so that more underrepresented districts can receive the same help from the OCR, and education across the country will be improved.

http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/us-education-department-reaches-agreement-lee-county-ala-school-district-equal-a

Erica Michelson

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One response to “Lee County, Alabama”

  1. legiprocess says :

    I wonder how much of this is a race issue versus a class issue. It seems to me that the high schools with fewer AP classes are also those that have less funding. While it is a laudable goal to improve racial equality, it seems to me that they are not addressing the underlying problem. It will be interesting to see the results of this reform.

    -Jenny Wu

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