State and school district educational leaders recognize the importance of making sure that students of all backgrounds and abilities have an equal chance to succeed. This goal of educational equity has been historically difficult to achieve, but it is as important now as it has ever been.
Change is rarely easy, but it is nearly impossible without reliable and current information about the problems that need to be solved. For education, a promising way to start is to systematically identify and quantify the conditions that contribute to group differences in the outcomes that indicate whether students are ready for college or careers.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides a unique opportunity to reduce gaps in opportunity and achievement. It puts educational equity in the policy spotlight and provides states with an opportunity to bring a systemic perspective to the issue.
Increasingly sophisticated educational data systems mean that states, districts, and schools have more capacity than ever before to identify inequities in their systems. These data systems contain a trove of information that can be explicitly analyzed over time through the lens of equity (see box below).
A WAY FORWARD
This guidebook presents a carefully chosen set of educational equity indicators as a starting point for addressing longstanding disparities in key educational opportunities and outcomes (see Summary Table on next page). These indicators:
- Span from pre-K through grade 12, because group differences in educational opportunities and outcomes arise before children enter kindergarten and persist after high school.
- Include key educational outcomes and access to learning opportunities and resources, because systemic differences in opportunity may contribute to group differences in outcomes and it is necessary to monitor both so that resources can be matched to students’ needs.
- Are designed to measure differences along key demographic characteristics, because some population groups have had historically unequal access to educational opportunity (see box at left).
Each indicator is important on its own and makes a unique contribution to understanding the full range of outcomes and opportunities that are central to educational equity. Together, as a system, these indicators are intended for states and school districts to:
- Monitor important group-level differences in learning opportunities and outcomes.
- Identify patterns and causes of inequity in the education system.
- Analyze and adjust relevant policies and practices to increase equity.
- Match supports and interventions to the specific needs of the student population.
- Evaluate and enhance capacity to meet the academic and nonacademic needs of students.
- Pursue funding and other resources to address needs related to educational equity.
States and districts already report data on several of these indicators as part of ESSA, the Civil Rights Data Collection, and other U.S. Department of Education surveys. They also collect data on some of these indicators for their own purposes, such as continuous improvement or teacher evaluation. For several indicators, there are data collection instruments that states and districts could adopt. This guidebook provides some examples of those instruments for consideration and inspiration, without evaluating their quality or endorsing their use.
INDICATORS OF EDUCATIONAL EQUITY
|Education Level||Indicators of Disparities||What to Measure||Part of Required Federal Reporting?|
|Pre-K Education||Access to and participation in high-quality pre-K programs (opportunity)||Group differences in availability of and participation in licensed pre-K programs||No|
|Academic readiness (outcome)||Group differences in reading, literacy, numeracy, and math skills||No|
|Self-regulation and attention skills (outcome)||Group differences in self-regulation and attention skills||No|
|K-12 Education||Access to effective teaching (opportunity)||Group differences in exposure to novice, experienced, and certified teachers
Racial and ethnic diversity of the teaching force
|Access to rigorous coursework (opportunity)||Group differences in availability of and enrollment in advanced, rigorous coursework; Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and dual enrollment programs; and gifted and talented programs||Yes|
|Curricular breadth (opportunity)||Group differences in availability of and enrollment in coursework in the arts, social sciences, sciences, technology, and world languages||No|
|Access to high-quality academic supports (opportunity)||Group differences in access to and participation in formalized systems of tutoring or other types of academic supports, including special education services and services for English learners||No|
|Students’ exposure to racial, ethnic, and economic segregation (opportunity)||Group differences in exposure to concentrated poverty in schools
Extent of racial segregation within and across schools
|School climate (opportunity)||Group differences in access to strong climates, as measured by perceptions of safety, academic support, academically focused culture, and teacher-student trust||No|
|Nonexclusionary discipline practices (opportunity)||Group differences in out-of-school suspensions and expulsions||Yes|
|Nonacademic supports for student success (opportunity)||Group differences in supports for emotional, behavioral, mental, and physical health||Yes|
|Engagement in schooling (outcome)||Group differences in school attendance, absenteeism, and academic engagement||Partly|
|Performance in coursework (outcome)||Group difference in success in classes, accumulating credits, grades, and grade point averages (GPAs)||Yes|
|Performance on tests (outcome)||Group differences in achievement levels and learning growth in reading, math, and science||Yes|
|Educational Attainment||On-time graduation (outcome)||Group differences in on-time graduation||Yes|
|Postsecondary readiness (outcome)||Group differences in enrollment in college, entry into the workforce, or enlistment in the military||Partly|
ABOUT THIS GUIDEBOOK
This guidebook builds on Monitoring Educational Equity, a report published in 2019 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (see http://www.nap.edu). The indicators in Monitoring Educational Equity represent the consensus of a committee of experts in educational research, policy, and practice. The committee conducted an extensive review of research and practice to recommend a relatively small yet comprehensive set of indicators of educational equity that are feasible for states and districts to adopt now or in the relatively near future. From its review, the committee concluded that this set of indicators has the potential to provide a robust picture of educational equity from pre-K through grade 12.
Monitoring Educational Equity provides the evidence base and framework for a system of equity indicators that align with children’s developmental trajectories and with structural and systemic sources of inequity in the education system. By design, the report does not offer specific and practical suggestions for creating and reporting on a set of indicators. This guidebook thus provides the next steps by summarizing some of the report’s key findings and recommendations and providing information and examples to help states and districts consider these indicators as part of a system that illuminates key disparities in opportunities and outcomes among different groups of students and among schools from pre-K through grade 12.
Although the indicators are the same as in Monitoring Educational Equity, they are organized slightly differently in this guidebook than in the report. The report groups the indicators into seven domains that emphasize the distinction between educational outcomes and indicators of educational opportunity. Given its more practical purpose, this guidebook groups indicators of outcomes and opportunities by education level: pre-K education, K-12 education, and educational attainment.