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survey and the manner in which it is administered can be improved to: (1) more effectively assess whether students have access to critical learning opportunities; (2) make the data more accessible to interested citizens, as well as to educators and policy makers; and (3) enhance its usefulness as a resource for research that could lead to school improvement.
Despite the many societal and educational changes that have occurred during the past 35 years, major disparities in opportunities to learn and in education outcomes persist, especially those associated with race and ethnicity—the original focus of the E&S survey. The timely collection and analysis of classroom-, schooland district-level data that can help identify educational policies and practices that may have inequitable, if not discriminatory, effects on students is no less important today than it was when the E&S survey was first administered.
LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES— THE KEY
In one way or another, virtually all civil rights related to education involve the assurance that students will have the necessary opportunities to learn. The definition of “necessary” is contested, but the idea of equal opportunities to learn for persons of different backgrounds is the basis of contemporary understandings of rights. Legislation and court rulings addressing the needs of persons who do not speak English or who have disabilities have extended the protection of the law and gone beyond the goal of equality to guarantee the provision of needed services. School finance cases also have sought to broaden the definition of individual rights related to education beyond equality of spending per student to take into account the fact that some students, including but not limited to students who do not speak English and students with disabilities, need more services than others if they are to succeed in school (see Rebell, 2002).
Regardless of the race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or disability status of the students whose educational rights are at issue, the focus of concern is learning opportunities. If students with certain characteristics have differential access to learning opportunities in particular situations, it may signal discrimination. However, despite the centrality of learning opportunities to the protection of civil rights, there is no accepted or even widely discussed model that identifies the full range of opportunities to learn, their relative importance to student learning, and their interrelationships. Research that links data on patterns of access to