Erasing the Opportunity Gap
Each day children in poverty attend schools whose resources don't match up to those found in schools in more affluent areas of a district. Georgia Appleseed contributed to a recent Appleseed Foundation report, The Same Starting Line: How School Boards Can Erase the Opportunity Gap Between Poor and Middle-Class Children. The study examined policies and practice related to the dissemination of learning-related education resources in select school districts in five states, including Cobb County, Georgia. Although not dollars per se, these resources can affect education profoundly and include distribution of principals and teachers by experience and credentials; placement of new buildings and ongoing refurbishment; Advanced Placement courses; and school counselor-student ratio.
Resource disparity by neighborhood is often the outcome of a pattern accumulated by school boards as they make decisions one-at-a-time over many years. The cumulative effect, however, results in an opportunity gap that in general gives well-off students a better chance of academic success.
The study recommends that school boards and communities measure resource equity using Appleseed's user-friendly, dialogue-inviting spreadsheet included with the report, the Resource Equity Assessment Document (READ). It also recommends policies to maximize equity and assure accountability.
To transform the report's recommendations into action, Rob Rhodes of Georgia Appleseed, along with a Georgia-based partner, Theresa El-Amin, of the Southern Anti-Racism Network in Columbus, participated in a national Appleseed 'convening' in New York of representatives from parent organizations, community groups and civil rights organizations.
Attendees used the READ assessment tool to look closely at a school district's "learning-related education resources", including teacher quality and credentials, condition of school facilities and libraries, and availability of advanced curricula. They learned from experienced advocates how to collect local data to support the case for change; and how to engage school boards and decision-makers in understanding the presence and effect of resource disparity and formulate advocacy plans that can lead to positive change.
To augment its effective school discipline efforts, Georgia Appleseed will amend the READ document to include assessment components related to parent involvement opportunities.