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Educational Opportunity Dashboard

About the Dashboard

This Dashboard compares disparities in access to educational opportunity for high school students in all 50 states and in the nation as a whole. The analysis is based on 14 indicators from the 2015-16 federal Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), which are used to create three composite indices on the following domains: (1) Quality Educators Index, (2) College/Career Readiness Curriculum Index, and (3) Positive School Climate Index. Users can rank states by each indicator, by each index, and by an “Average Opportunity Score.” Rankings are available by both overall opportunity and by the size of gaps in opportunity between student race/ethnic and poverty subgroups. The findings can also be limited to high schools of high-, mid-, and low-poverty.

ACCESS: A First Step to Opportunity. For this study, students are presumed to have “access” to an educational opportunity if they merely attend a high school that provides that opportunity. By examining this threshold question, we can compare how well policymakers are taking the basic first step to providing adequate and equitable opportunities regardless of race or poverty.

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.

National Findings

  • Overall, White, Asian and non-poor high school students have higher access to all three domains of educational opportunity: Access to Quality Educators, Access to College and Career Readiness Curriculum, and Access to Positive School Climate.
  • Black, Hispanic, and poor students have less access to quality educators and access to positive school climate. Black and poor students have less access to college and career readiness curriculum, though Hispanic high school students have similar access to college and career readiness curriculum as White students.
  • High school students of all races in low-poverty schools have greater access to all three domains of access to educational opportunity.
  • Black and Hispanic high school students are concentrated in high-poverty schools, while White students are concentrated in low-poverty schools.
  • The concentration of Black and Hispanic students in high-poverty schools appears to be a primary factor driving gaps in access to educational opportunity between Black and White and Hispanic and White students. However, gaps by race/ethnicity exist across all levels of school poverty (i.e. within low-, mid-, and high-poverty schools). For example:
    • White students have greater access to quality educators than any other race/ethnic group at all levels of school poverty.
    • Gaps in access to college and career readiness curriculum exist between Black and White and Hispanic and White students in low-poverty schools, but Black and Hispanic students have either similar or greater access than White students in mid- and high-poverty schools. Asian students have the greatest access across all levels of school poverty.
    • Gaps in access to positive school climate exist between Black and White students in schools of all poverty levels. Notable disparities between Hispanic and White students are not present in mid- and low-poverty schools but a gap that favors Hispanic students is present in high-poverty schools. Asian students have the greatest access across all levels of school poverty.

Pennsylvania Report


Unequal Access to Educational Opportunity Among Pennsylvania’s High School Students

In this brief, we highlight the findings from RFA’s Educational Opportunity Dashboard to discuss how Pennsylvania compares to other states in providing high school students with access to schools that provide high quality educational opportunities.

View the full PA report here


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

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