Nearly 85 percent of states fail to provide students access to a moderately proficient public education system according to Lost Opportunity: A 50 State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America, a new report by the Schott Foundation for Public Education. The report also finds that minority and low-income students have only half the opportunity to learn in public schools as do their white non-Latino peers.
“Under our current system, access to some of our nation’s districts or schools brings with it the virtual certainty of high school graduation and access to and success in postsecondary education,” the report reads. “Access to other districts or schools within the same states, however, brings near certainty of an education that ends well short of a high school diploma, with little prospect for college or employment with livable wages and the near certain perpetuation of inter-generational poverty.”
To determine both the quality of and access to instruction, the Schott Foundation for Public Education analyzed student performance data reported by state departments of education in all fifty states and the District of Columbia. It then calculated an initial resource access score, called the “Opportunity to Learn Index (OTLI),” which compares the opportunity of students from disadvantaged groups to have access to the 25 percent of the schools in a state where nearly all students graduate on time and college ready to that of white, non-Latino students. For example, if 40 percent of a state’s white, non-Latino students are enrolled in the top quartile of that state’s schools, and 20 percent of students from disadvantaged groups are given the opportunity to study in such schools, the OTLI is 50 percent: disadvantaged students have half the “Opportunity to Learn” as white, non-Latino students in that state.
The eight states that provide the greatest opportunity for minority and low-income students to learn are Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Virginia. Alternatively, sixteen states provide access to good public schools to some of their students, the report finds, but they “essentially restrict” minority and low-income students to schools where they have little opportunity to learn. Another nine states and the District of Columbia provide neither a moderately proficient school system nor equitable access to the system’s best schools or resources.
Lost Opportunity also finds that fewer than 20 percent of students from historically disadvantaged groups are enrolled in the top quarter of high schools in each state, compared to 35 percent of Asian American students and 32 percent of white students. Meanwhile, African American (42 percent), Latino (35 percent), low-income (34 percent), Native American (32 percent), and Asian American (21 percent) students are more likely than white students (15 percent) to attend schools where they have little chance of demonstrating academic proficiency, graduating from high school, and attaining the postsecondary credentials that are essential in today’s economy.
To help combat this inequality, the report calls on the federal government to “develop and implement a national opportunity-to-learn resource accountability system to track student access to core educational resources.” To support this system, the report makes several recommendations, including that the federal government and community advocates take steps to use data systems to ensure that states and localities are achieving the highest return on investments from taxpayer dollars, and that President Obama immediately establishes a National Interagency Commission on the Opportunity to Learn to determine the necessary sustained investments, coordination, and partnerships to ensure that students in all states have a fair and substantive opportunity to learn by 2020.
The complete report is available at http://www.schottfoundation.org/.
Categories:Students of Color