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ALC Keynote Speaker: Achievement and Opportunity in America: Critical Next Steps for School Boards

Daria Hall

By Daria Hall, Vice President for Government Affairs, The Education Trust

DashBoard, Sept. 13, 2017

Thanks to the hard work of educators and families, we as a nation have made real improvements in student achievement in recent years. Performance on the Long-Term Trends National Assessment of Educational Progress is on the rise, as are high school graduation rates.

Yet despite these gains, far too many low-income students and students of color are still not getting the education they need to be prepared for college, the workplace and civic participation. Nationwide, students of color are far more likely than their white peers to need remediation in both two- and four-year institutions of higher education. Young adults from high-income families are seven times more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree by age 24 than are young adults from low-income families. Among applicants for entry into the armed services, black and Latino young people are far less likely to meet minimum academic requirements.

Our unequal society means that gaps in achievement begin before students start school. But too often, the choices that educators and policymakers make while students are in school exacerbate these inequities. Low-income students and students of color get less of everything that research and experience show contribute to achievement. Here are just a few examples of these devastating gaps in opportunity to learn nationwide:

  • The highest poverty districts receive about $1,200 less in state and local funds per student than the lowest poverty districts;
  • Classes in high-poverty secondary schools are twice as likely to be taught by out-of-field teachers as those in low-poverty secondary schools;
  • Just 20% of black students who demonstrate AP potential based on PSAT performance are enrolled in an AP class, compared to 38% of white students who show AP potential.

Thankfully, there are schools in communities across the country that are getting high achievement for all students. And there are districts showing what it looks like to tackle educational disparities head on. School board members committed to advancing equity and achievement in their communities can learn a lot from these leaders, including that leading schools and districts requires:

  • Not leaving anything to chance. Attend closely to standards implementation, including how standards are translated into curriculum and classroom assignments for students;
  • Knowing how much strong, well-supported teachers matter and acting on that knowledge by examining data on who’s teaching who and acting when there are disparities;
  • Taking seriously the power they have to shape students’ lives, and acting on that by constantly identifying and learning from educators who are getting gains for vulnerable students, and not tolerating excuses from those who aren’t.

Learning from, and adopting, lessons from high performers is one of the most powerful tools available to board members as you work to ensure that all students in your community get the high-quality education they need and deserve.


Hall is presenting on Advancing Opportunity and Achievement for All Students: Key Roles for School Boards on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017, at the MASB Annual Leadership Conference. Learn more about all sessions being offered and register to join us today!

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