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Equity in our schools: Closing the opportunity gap

Report highlights ways states aim to make education equitable for underserved students

Screenshot - 9_18_2018 , 12_54_20 PM

As states across the country implement plans to improve equity in our schools, California is leading the way in efforts to close the opportunity gap and ensure all students have equal opportunity to succeed.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the nation’s federal education law, required states to develop plans outlining policies and practices to advance equity in schools by upholding critical protections for underserved, disadvantaged and high-need students. These plans focus on the measurement and advancement of goals, including reducing suspension rates, building positive school climates, and expanding access to educational opportunities for marginalized students.

According to a recent report by the Learning Policy Institute, states are using five “equity indicators” to create and strengthen opportunities for learning: suspension rates, school climate, chronic absenteeism, extended-year graduation, and access to a college-and career-ready curriculum. The report, “Making ESSA’s Equity Promise Real: State Strategies to Close the Opportunity Gap,” spotlights California’s efforts in reducing the student suspension rate, which is being used as an accountability measure for school quality for K-12 students statewide. Nationally, the overuse of suspensions and expulsions, especially for students of color, contribute significantly to dropout rates and the perpetuation of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” according to the report.

As outlined in the state’s ESSA Plan, California Department of Education (CDE) is supporting school districts in efforts to reduce the overuse of discipline practices that remove students from the classroom by providing resources on strategies that replace high-risk punitive discipline with positive interventions. The state is also providing Title I educators with a support system to promote positive behavioral practices at the local level.

Nationally, the overuse of suspensions and expulsions, especially for students of color, contribute significantly to dropout rates and the perpetuation of the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

The report includes links to additional resources on each of the five equity indicators, related measures and techniques being used to positively impact these areas, and examples of how schools are using these to close the opportunity gap and create greater equity for all students. The state ESSA plans are only the first step in providing equal opportunity for students, as these measures will need to be combined with policies and strategies including monitoring, transparency and strong communication to support marginalized students.

CDE developed an online tool that shows how local educational agencies and schools are performing on the state and local indicators included in California’s school accountability system. The California School Dashboard provides equity data for local educational agencies and schools that can be used to provide opportunity to all students and identify areas for improvement.

The Learning Policy Institute and the National Urban League will host a webinar on Sept. 26 at noon highlighting the report on equity and closing the opportunity gap. Register for free and join the discussion on how schools can take advantage of equity measures in state accountability systems to close gaps in educational opportunities and outcomes.

Photo courtesy Learning Policy Institute

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