Report Ranks States on Opportunities to Learn

By Debra Viadero — May 19, 2009 1 min read
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Nationwide, the opportunities for poor and minority students to attend a high-performing school are only about half what they are for white students, says a national study out today.

The report by the Cambridge, Mass.-based Schott Foundation for Public Education ranks all 50 states on the basis of student achievement and the percentages of students from historically disadvantaged groups attending the state’s top-performing public schools.

Only eight states fared well on both counts: Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Virginia. It may be worth noting that these are all states with comparatively low populations of African-American, Latino, and Native American populations.

The 10 states at the other end of the scale—in other words, the ones that got low scores for both proficiency and educational access—were somewhat more mixed in that regard. They are: Missouri, Texas, Rhode Island, Illinois, Michigan, Arkansas, Arizona, Nevada, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

Here’s one surprise in the study: Some wealthy, typically high-achieving states, such as Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York, scored near the bottom on the foundation’s overall opportunity-to-learn scale.

And here’s another: Judged solely on the basis of disadvantaged students’ access to the best schools, Louisiana ranks first. But the report also says that finding may be a bit skewed because the state’s public schools have disproportionately high proportions of black, Latino, Native American, and low-income students, and large percentages of white, middle-class students enroll in private schools there.

The full report, titled “Lost Opportunity in America,” also contains statistics on disparities, within and among states, access to early-childhood education, high-quality teachers, instructional materials, and a college-preparatory curriculum. Check it out here.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.