Eliminating Opportunity Gaps Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why are we focusing on Eliminating Opportunity and Achievement Gaps (EPG) for ethnically and linguistically diverse students?
At Seattle Public Schools, our fundamental belief is that every student entrusted to us will attain high academic performance and will achieve academic excellence. While this is a reality for some of our students, it remains a dream deferred for many of our students of color (African American, Latino, Native American, Pacific Islanders, and South East Asian). That is why we are declaring our commitment to eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps and accelerating achievement for each and every one of our students.
For many years our District has not lived up to its commitment to a significant proportion of our students, especially our African American males and other students of color. The Eliminating Opportunity Gaps work expresses our community-wide commitment to improving educational experiences and learning outcomes for our historically underserved students. We can do better and we must do better.
What is Seattle Public Schools doing to serve each and every student?
Eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps involves not only improving achievement for ALL students, but also providing the opportunities, access and supports that each and every student needs to significantly raise the achievement of our historically underserved student populations.
Significant changes are needed to eliminate these opportunity and achievement gaps and in response Seattle Public Schools is doing the following:
We have embraced an agenda that focuses on effectively serving each and every child who comes into our care.
We are using research-based strategies that have been shown to eliminate the opportunity and achievement gaps among groups of students.
Our staff is revisiting assumptions about how learning occurs, and integrating a broad range of disciplines, such as culturally responsive teaching and learning, sociology, brain research, and cultural anthropology, including research on human development into our different learning approaches and environments.
Leaders and educators are reflecting on the ways in which we think about our students and the causes of the opportunity and achievement gaps they are experiencing.
We are focused on factors within the system, our beliefs, attitudes and actions as the levers of change in order to deconstruct barriers to effective schooling for poor and/or culturally and linguistically diverse students.
What is the goal of the Eliminating Opportunity Gaps campaign?
The focus of the Eliminating Opportunity Gaps campaign is to ensure that each and every one of our students receives the high quality education they deserve and that we improve and accelerate educational and learning outcomes for our historically underserved students.
But don’t all of SPS students matter?
Our goal is to recognize, honor and value the inherent worth, dignity and funds of knowledge that every one of our students brings into the classroom. Our work is to ensure that every student who graduates from Seattle Public Schools graduates ready to successfully face the challenges of college, careers and life. The foundation of this commitment begins with promoting educational and racial equity in each of our classrooms.
The problems we face are problems of our whole society – problems with deep roots in our nation’s history. While we cannot change the past, we can and must change the education that shapes the future of our children.
We are using Targeted Universalism as our approach to eliminating opportunity gaps. In its simplest definition, targeted universalism alters the usual approach of universal strategies (policies, practices, and procedures that make no distinctions among student’s status) to achieve universal goals (improved student academic achievement), and instead suggests we use targeted strategies to reach universal goals.
What is an example of Targeted Universalism?
The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy offers the following example:
“For example, if a foundation aims to "improve health of Chicagoans" and gives a grant to a local hospital, some or all of that money could be spent on "general purposes" such as the latest high-tech equipment. Such expenditures often are necessary and beneficial to patients. But these patients are limited to those who are able to access sophisticated health services.
By contrast, under targeted universalism, a grant intentionally seeks broad social benefits using targeted means in implementation., Using the same example of a general purpose grant to improve health outcomes for Chicago's residents helps understand this concept in practice. If a portion of the general purpose grant is allocated explicitly to benefit lower-income and uninsured patients, not only does this assure that the beneficiaries are those who are underserved, but data support the fact that health outcomes for all Chicago residents would be more likely to improve as well. By addressing disparities in access to health care directly, this grant also contributes to the public good and various other measures of wellbeing because health is fundamental to other social indicators such as education.”
You can read more on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy website.
Why the sense of urgency related to eliminating opportunity gaps?
Our answer is simple, we must seize this opportunity to turn great potential into real and tangible possibilities for each and every student, regardless of their race, background, or circumstance. The Eliminating Opportunity Gaps Initiative is our system-wide roadmap for the transformation.
Ensuring true educational equity in our schools means eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps, not just at the lower end of achievement but all along the spectrum. We will provide access, opportunities, and supports to our students and schools to accelerate achievement and attain academic excellence for students of color, while simultaneously ensuring that middle and high-achieving students continue to excel.
When Justice Prevails, Everyone Benefits