By Matt Weyer
Complex and persistent achievement gaps have negatively affected states for decades, with low-income and minority student groups often trailing their higher-income and white and Asian peers in mathematics and reading skills.
These gaps begin very early, often before kindergarten and can persist throughout students’ K-12 education. Achievement gaps also impact high school graduation, college enrollment and completion and employment attainment, all of which can affect a state’s economy.
NCSL’s new case study report, Addressing Achievement Through Opportunity: Washington State’s Approach to Closing the Gap, takes an in-depth look at the process Washington state policymakers, parents, community leaders and education advocates took to begin unraveling this complex issue.
Three strategies were critical to this process:
- Creating spaces for meaningful conversations with affected communities.
- Shifting policy priorities to focus on opportunity gaps rather than achievement gaps.
- Committing to a long-term vision.
During this effort, legislation was enacted to create the Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee to spearhead this effort, eventually playing a key role for the passage of HB 1541 in 2016. The law is designed to implement the strategies recommended by the committee to improve educational outcomes for all students.
This includes addressing disproportionalities in student discipline, improving outcomes for English language learners and the recruitment and retention of effective educators, to name a few.
You can find more information, including legislative tracking, resources and upcoming publications and meetings on NCSL’s Closing Early Learning Opportunity Gaps Under ESSA webpage.
Matt Weyer is a senior policy specialist in NCSL’s Education Program