84% of States Fail to Provide Students an Opportunity to Learn

Schott Foundation Index Finds only Eight of 50 States Providing Disadvantaged Students Equitable Access to Even Moderately Proficient Public Education Systems

BOSTON (May 19, 2009) – With national and state policymakers focused on student achievement and school innovation, a new analysis of state-collected education data reveals that 84 percent of states fail to provide students access to moderately proficient public education system. Moreover, as the nation celebrates the 55th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court decision, the study shows that minority and low-income students have only half the opportunity to learn in our public schools as their White non-Latino peers.

The data was summarized in Lost Opportunity: A 50-State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America, a state-by-state study released today by the Schott Foundation for Public Education. The study analyzed student performance data reported by state departments of education to determine both the quality of and access to instruction provided in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“This serves as a wake-up call to every governor, legislature, state education commissioner, and schools superintendent that falsely believes we are getting the job done in our classrooms,” said Dr. John Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation. “According to their own data, only eight states are providing a moderately proficient, high-access public education to all.  After a decade of leaving no child behind, we are finding that an entire generation of students is again all but forgotten.”

The Schott Foundation provided a state-by-state comparison of both academic proficiency (percentage of students scoring at or above proficient on eighth grade NAEP reading measures) and access (as measured by the Schott Foundation’s Opportunity to Learn Index, or OTLI). Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Virginia were the only states identified as providing both a moderate-proficiency and high-access education for all students.

Rounding out the bottom, eight states–Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia, along with the District of Columbia, appear to provide low-proficiency and low-access education, according to their own data.

“To raise student performance and close the achievement gap, we must first address the growing opportunity gap,” Jackson said. “In far too many states, students are being denied access to the resources that provide a meaningful opportunity to learn. There is no substitute for opportunity, not in our schools, not in our workplaces, and not in our society. That is our American dream. No one should be satisfied with the level of educational quality and access we are providing to our children. This data defines a community in crisis, not one of achievement for all.”

Sixteen states were found to provide a moderately proficient education for most students but demonstrated low access when it came to providing that education to historically disadvantaged students. These states included: Connecticut, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Seventeen states were found to provide high-access, but low-proficiency education to their students. These states include Alabama, Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and Utah.

The state-by-state data, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and income, can be found at www.otlstatereport.org.

“Over the past decade, we have declared that data is king in education improvement,” Jackson said.  “The state data is clear. If you are a Black, Latino, American Indian, or low-income student in this country, odds are you are not receiving high-quality learning opportunities. After more than a half century, we are still not providing a truly equal educational opportunities to all students.  After more than a quarter century, our nation is still very much at risk. Quality for a few and access for some is hardly the standard to which we should hold our states and school districts.”

Delving deeper into the state-provided data, only six states offer Black students a relatively equal opportunity to learn, compared to their White-non-Latino peers.  Eighty percent of states fail to offer Latino students a fairly good opportunity to learn, while nearly 80 percent of states fail to offer low-income students a strong opportunity to learn.  Low-income students have the highest opportunity learn in those states with low minority populations.

The report highlights the educational and economic effects of that gap. California and New York each account for 15 percent of the nation’s nearly $60 billion annual economic burden attributable to the opportunity to learn inequities. Texas accounts for an additional 12 percent. The next three states—Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania—account for 5 percent each.  New York’s share of the economic effect of inequity is nearly three times its percentage of the national population.

“We are far behind as a nation, proficiency should not be the benchmark but as the President has stated, increasing college degree attainment is the goal. Yet, in the 21st century, states are failing to provide students access to the resources needed to even meet the lower, ‘proficient’ standard which is unfair and against our national interest. “ Jackson stated.



About The Schott Foundation

Founded in 1991, The Schott Foundation for Public Education seeks to develop and strengthen a broad-based and representative movement to achieve fully resourced, high-quality preK-12 public education.