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Data and Samples

The analytic sample for this project consists of a set high schools that were commonly found in two nation-wide school surveys from the 2015-16 school year: Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) and Common Core of Data (CCD).  The CRDC, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, is a biennial survey of public schools, including juvenile justice facilities, charter schools, alternative schools, and schools serving only students with disabilities. The CRDC data are used by the Office of Civil Rights to ensure that recipients of federal financial assistance do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, or disability status. The CCD is the Department of Education’s primary database on public elementary and secondary education in the United States. CCD is a comprehensive, annual, national database of all public elementary and secondary schools and school districts. CCD are unique in that student enrollment data are disaggregated by grade, race, and gender, and include student eligibility for free/reduced-price lunch programs.

Construction of Composite Indices

In total, we used 14 CRDC indicators to construct state-level indices capturing three general categories of educational opportunity: access to quality educators, access to college and career readiness curriculum, and access to positive school climate. We also considered additional CRDC indicators, but they were excluded because they were duplicative, not applicable across states, or did not meet methodological standards for inclusion (e.g., low internal consistency with other indicators) in the composite indices.

As shown in the table below, we included five indicators in an access to quality educators composite index, five indicators in the access to college & career readiness curriculum composite index, and four indicators in an access to positive school climate composite index.

Scores for each indicator represent the percentage of students who attended a school with a certain educational opportunity in each state.  We computed this percentage in each state as follows:

For each indicator, we computed the percentage scores for all 9th -12th grade students in a state as well as scores for student subgroups defined by race/ethnicity and free/reduced-price lunch eligibility status. We also calculated percentage scores separately for students in high-, mid-, and low-poverty schools. Summary statistics for state-level indicator scores using all schools are reported in the .  All indicators under each education opportunity category are positively correlated with a Cronbach’s Alpha value exceeding 0.70, indication for a high level of internal consistency among the indicators. The state-level composite index score for each domain of educational opportunity was computed by averaging its indicator scores.

Access to Educational Opportunity Indicators and Definitions


Support for the Educational Opportunity Dashboard was provided by The Heinz Endowments and the William Penn Foundation. The contents of this Dashboard were developed by RFA and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funders. Many members of the RFA team contributed to this project, including: Jason Fontana, Anna Shaw-Amoah, Dae Kim, David Lapp, Samantha Slade, and Kate Shaw. Special thanks to Anna Shaw-Amoah who led development of the Dashboard and to Jason Fontana who led RFA’s data analysis.