5 Things State Leaders Can do to Advance Equity

How can state leaders advance equity through better policies?

Below are five ways state leaders can impact equity through 1) State Funding Structures, 2) Access to Strong and Diverse Educators, 3) State Accountability, Improvement and Reporting systems, and 4) Access to & Success in Advanced Coursework.

State Funding Systems

Money matters. The decisions that lawmakers and other school system leaders make about how much to spend, as well as where and how to invest that funding, significantly impacts the educational experiences, outcomes, and futures of the students served by our public school systems. Research shows that increased school spending leads to increases in graduation rates, higher wages, and reduction in adult poverty, especially for students from low-income families.

Access to Strong and Diverse Educators

As parents and students know, having the right teacher matters. Research shows that teachers are the No. 1 in-school factor for student success. Students with the strongest teachers receive what amounts to months’ worth of additional learning each year. In addition, both research and the lived experiences of children show that teachers affect much more than academics. And yet, students of color and students from low-income families are less likely to have access to strong, consistent teaching than their White and higher-income peers.

State Accountability Systems, School Improvement, and Reporting

Not too long ago, students from low-income families, students of color, English learners, and students with disabilities — who had long gone underserved in our schools — were invisible, hidden behind averages. But in 2002 federal legislation changed all that by introducing accountability systems to ensure that all students — regardless of their race, family income, home language, or disability status — get the education they need and deserve. And in 2015, building on that earlier legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) challenged states to refine their accountability systems to provide the right combination of pressure and support for school improvement. As states continue to implement ESSA, it is critical that strong voices continue advocating for equity.

Access to and Success in Advanced Coursework

Based on The Education Trust’s analysis of data from the Civil Rights Data Collection and the Common Core of Data, students in low-poverty schools are nearly twice as likely to be enrolled in eighth grade algebra as students in high-poverty schools. Similarly, students in schools with the lowest percentages of students of color are about 1.5 times as likely to be enrolled in eighth grade algebra than students in schools with the highest percentages of students of color. These inequities prevent Black, Latino, and low-income students from accessing the broad benefits of advanced coursework.