Special Report
Equity & Diversity

Data Reveal Deep Inequities in Schools

By Christina A. Samuels — March 03, 2020 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

How close does the public education system come to the principles of equity: providing all students the resources they need to meet their highest potential?

A growing number of organizations are using data to answer that question. And those same organizations are also creating tools that allow anyone with a computer to compare their district, state, or even their school to similar entities across the country.

Research for Action, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, used 2015-16 federal data on all schools and measured how many high schools offer positive benefits such as teachers who are fully certified by the state, access to Advanced Placement courses, or low levels of chronic absenteeism among students and teachers.

Overall, white, Asian, and affluent students had greater access to schools with signs of quality, the organization found. Black students, Hispanic students, and students from low-income backgrounds had less access to schools with quality educators and a positive school climate, as defined by the Research for Action. The organization released a data dashboard that allows users to compare states to one another.

This analysis is useful because it answers a basic question, said David Lapp, the organization’s director of policy research: are students offered the same ingredients for success no matter where they attend school?

“Whether a school even offers that opportunity isn’t really a function of a student’s, or a parent’s, or even a teacher’s decision. It’s a function of policymakers,” Lapp said.

The Education Trust, a group that advocates for students of color students living in poverty, used the same data set to look more closely at students’ access to advanced coursework: gifted classes, Algebra 1 in 8th grade, and Advanced Placement courses. It found that nationally, black and Hispanic students are less likely to attend schools where rigorous coursework is offered, but when they do, they are less likely to be enrolled in those courses. Individual states, however, vary on how easily black and Hispanic students can access these courses.

Explore the Data: Digging Into Data on Equity

“What the data does is really lend support to what we’ve known anecdotally, to really make the point that changes need to be made,” said Kayla Patrick, a policy analyst on the P-12 Policy team.

The Education Trust has also created a tool that allows users to compare states.

Ivy Smith-Morgan, the associate director of P-12 analytics for The Education Trust, said a growing interest in educational equity has coincided with the release of federal data on every school. That data offers a valuable perspective on state efforts, and she believes more organizations will continue to use data to inform their advocacy.

“It’s almost impossible to find the solution if you don’t know it exists, and you don’t know what the drivers of the problems are,” Smith-Morgan said.

A version of this article appeared in the March 04, 2020 edition of Education Week as A Clear-Eyed View of the Inequities in Schools

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Privacy & Security Webinar
K-12 Cybersecurity in the Real World: Lessons Learned & How to Protect Your School
Gain an expert understanding of how school districts can improve their cyber resilience and get ahead of cybersecurity challenges and threats.
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Trauma-Informed Schools 101: Best Practices & Key Benefits
Learn how to develop a coordinated plan of action for addressing student trauma and
fostering supportive, healthy environments.
Content provided by Crisis Prevention Institute
Jobs Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Young Children Think and Talk About Race. How Should Teachers Respond?
Educators, many wary of recent restrictions on the topic, discussed the challenge at a recent professional conference.
4 min read
Image of elementary students sitting in a circle.
Pongtep Chithan/iStock/Getty
Equity & Diversity Opinion 3 Reasons Your District Needs a Theory of Change for Equity Work
Even as equity and anti-racism efforts have accelerated, many equity leaders are missing this essential tool, writes a researcher.
Terrance L. Green
4 min read
House surrounded by trees under dark night sky. Movement of stars around pole star on north hemisphere. Star trails on night sky, long exposure composition
dzika_mrowka/iStock/Getty<br/>
Equity & Diversity Researchers Search for Hidden Graves at Native American Boarding Schools
The bodies of more than 80 Native American children are buried at the former Genoa Indian Industrial School in central Nebraska.
6 min read
A member of a team affiliated with the National Park Service uses ground-penetrating radar in hopes of detecting what is beneath the soil while searching for over 80 Native American children buried at the former Genoa Indian Industrial School, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022, in Genoa, Neb. For decades the location of the student cemetery has been a mystery, lost over time after the school closed in 1931 and memories faded of the once-busy campus that sprawled over 640 acres in the tiny community of Genoa.
A researcher uses ground-penetrating radar last month to search for more than 80 Native American children buried at the site of the former Genoa Indian Industrial School in Genoa, Neb.
Charlie Neibergall/AP