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Unequal Access to Educational Opportunity in the United States

Research for Action’s Educational Opportunity Dashboard is an interactive on-line tool to synthesize data and rank all 50 states by how well they provide students access to schools that offer 14 indicators of educational opportunity from the federal Civil Rights Data Collection.  On the Dashboard the indicators are compiled into an Average Opportunity Score and into three indexes of educational opportunity:

  1. Access to Quality Educators Index,
  2. Access to a Positive School Climate Index, and
  3. Access to a College/Career Readiness Curriculum Index.

This report provides a high-level discussion of educational opportunity and inequity at the national level as found on the Dashboard. Key findings include:

  • Black and Hispanic students had less access compared to White and Asian students on all three indexes of educational opportunity
  • Students eligible for Free/Reduced-Price Lunch (FRPL) had less access to educational opportunities compared to students not eligible for FRPL on all three indexes.
  • The concentration of Black and Hispanic students in high-poverty schools appears to be a primary factor driving gaps in access to educational opportunity; however, racial disparities often exist even within levels of school poverty. For example,
    • Within low-, mid-, and high-poverty schools, Black students had less access to quality educators compared to White students and less access to a positive school climate.
    • Hispanic students had less access to quality educators compared to White students across every level of school poverty.
  • Inequities by race/ethnicity and student income are found in both primary and secondary schools, with larger gaps in secondary schools.

Read the report and visit the interactive Dashboard to explore the data for the nation and all 50 states in more detail.