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RFA launches Educational Opportunity Dashboard, ranking 50 States on Race and Income-Based Disparities

Access to quality educational opportunity is not provided equally to students across the United States, as revealed by the Educational Opportunity Dashboard, an interactive tool released today. The Dashboard reveals stark gaps by student race and income, with most states and the nation as a whole providing White and Asian students greater access to educational opportunity compared to what they provide to Black, Hispanic, Native American and other students of color.

Based on data from the 2017-18 federal Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), the Dashboard ranks states on student access to 14 indicators of educational opportunity which are compiled into an Average Opportunity Score and three categories, or indexes:

  • Access to Quality Educators
  • Access to Positive School Climate
  • Access to Collect & Career Ready Curriculum

The Dashboard examines access by measuring whether students are simply provided schools where the 14 indicators of opportunity are available. “Access is the first step to opportunity,” said Anna Shaw-Amoah, Policy Associate at RFA and the lead architect of the Dashboard. “You can’t take an AP course if your school isn’t able to offer one. You can’t learn from experienced teachers if your school isn’t able to employ them.”

The Dashboard ranks states on access for all students, for subgroups by student race or ethnicity and by student family income. The analysis reveals that nationally 63.6% of White students have access on the Average Opportunity Score compared to only 54.2% of Black students (9% gap) and 59.5% of Hispanic students (4% gap). Only 57.9% of low-income student have access compared to 64% of students who are not low-income (6% gap). The concentration of Black and Hispanic students in high-poverty schools appears to be a primary factor driving gaps; however, racial disparities often exist even within subgroups of schools with similar levels of poverty.

“The Dashboard isn’t about what students, parents, or even teachers are doing,” explained David Lapp, RFA’s Director of Policy Research, “it’s about what policymakers are doing. Are policymakers providing the same learning opportunities regardless of student race or income? This should be the most basic expectation of policymakers, but in nearly every state the answer is no.”

Accompanying Policy Briefs: Along with the Dashboard, RFA releases two policy briefs: (1) a National brief, authored by Shaw-Amoah and Lapp that examines the opportunity gaps found on the Dashboard at the national level, and (2) a Pennsylvania brief, coauthored by Senior Research Analyst Justis Freeman and Senior Research Associate David Bamat, that summarizes findings for RFA’s home state where disparities by race/ethnicity and income are particularly stark.

As Freeman explained, “Pennsylvania has above average overall access to educational opportunities, but those averages mask disparities that rank as some of the worst in the country. The data show that Pennsylvania’s Black, Hispanic, Asian, and low-income students lose out—they do not receive the same educational opportunities compared to White or high-income peers in Pennsylvania or even compared to students of color or low-income students in other states.”

For example, among the 50 states Pennsylvania schools rank 50th on the Dashboard, last in the nation, with the largest gap between what public schools provide to White students compared to students of color and rank 49th for the size of gaps between low-income and non-low-income students.

The Dashboard includes a State Snapshots tab that can be used to generate reports for every state and RFA encourages users across the country to examine their own state’s data.

Two upcoming Webinars: RFA will host a webinar and media briefing to discuss national findings and answer questions about the Dashboard on Wednesday, October 12, at 4 pm EST. Please click here to register.

A second Webinar, specific to findings in the Pennsylvania report, will be provided Wednesday, October 12, at 12 p.m. EST through the PA Schools Work campaign. Click here to register.

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