In 2008, Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education and Black Males, revealed that nationally, only 47 percent of America’s Black males were graduating from high school. As the Schott Foundation moved beyond the surface level outcome data, we discovered even larger resource disparities which, in many respects, explained the large outcome disparities. These inequities extended far beyond just dollars; the students were also less likely to have access to highly effective teachers, early childhood education, and college preparatory curriculum. In the states where Black males were more likely to have access to those critical resources, they performed better. Likewise, in the places where White males were denied access to these same key resources, like in Detroit and Indianapolis, their outcomes also suffered severely. Simply put, what we witness today in the achievement gap is the silhouette of a larger opportunity gap that is identifiable both by race and socio-economic status. The achievement gap is merely one of many symptoms of a larger systemic illness. To move beyond what Lani Guinier brands as the “miner’s canary” approach, we decided to go deeper and investigate at what level the states in the U.S. were providing every child a fair and substantive opportunity to learn. Lost Opportunity: A 50 State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America is that deeper look.
The Schott Foundation and the philanthropic field are not new to this space. For years, we have been engaged with philanthropic partners at the Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, Open Society Institute, Lumina Foundation for Education, Rauch Foundation, the Donors Education Collaborative, Communities for Public Education Reform (CPER) and many others to address educational resource inequities. In New York our grantees call the effort The Campaign for Fiscal Equity. Our partners in New Jersey call it Abbott; in California, it’s the William’s case; in Massachusetts, it’s Hancock; and in Ohio it’s DeRolph. All of these are state-level campaigns where parents and community advocates seek to provide the necessary resources for their children to have an opportunity to learn. In the early 1990’s, the President and Congress had a chance to address ensuring an opportunity to learn for all students but passed it to another administration to take on the political burden. Eighteen years later, as Lost Opportunity clearly reveals, our children are still in desperate need of an opportunity to learn. Not just to reach proficiency or graduate from high school but, as the Lumina Foundation advocates and the President has articulated, to achieve success in post-secondary education and in life.
Lost Opportunity is not merely a report, it’s a platform for change. A galvanizing call for philanthropic partners, our grantees, and grassroots, grasstops and netroots advocates to organize to build a public will movement to strengthen our democracy, economy, communities and become better global citizens by guaranteeing that all students have a fair and substantive opportunity to learn.
John H. Jackson
President and CEO