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NASBE's State Education Standard Highlights Work to Be Done to Close Opportunity Gaps

Alexandria, VA – The National Association of State Boards of Education today released the new issue of its journal, The State Education Standard, focused on state policymakers’ role in addressing unequal opportunities in education.

Student achievement gaps in the United States have persisted, though not at static levels, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And while the degree to which any particular factor gets blame or credit for widening or narrowing the gaps is debatable, the authors in this issue of the Standard agree that differences in educational opportunity play a key role. Schools and state policymakers, they say, can control and address many of these variances head on: teacher distribution, funding, and access to early education, for example. This issue of the Standard looks at these factors and more.

In the cover story, Peter W. Cookson, Jr., director of the Equity Project at AIR, argues that public education remains our society’s most fruitful avenue for upward mobility, and yet even as schools retool to prepare students for the 21st century economy, our lowest-income students are still not equipped to participate fully.

Education Trust’s Sonja Brookins Santelises urges policymakers to hold fast to the guiding purpose of No Child Left Behind—equality of opportunity for all students—even as it fixes its flaws.

On the issue of early childhood education, Phil Sirinides of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) says that despite state and federal efforts to increase access to high-quality early learning, achievement gaps persist. On teacher equity, Kate Walsh and her colleagues at the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ) say that it is hard, but not impossible, to train, recruit, and keep good teachers in high-needs schools.

Ivory Toldson of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities and NASBE’s Kimberly Charis look at the most acute achievement gap, that of young black males, who are more likely to face exclusionary discipline, school-based arrest, and be placed in special education. Education experts Monica Martinez and Dennis McGrath argue that incorporating deeper learning in schools may be the answer to finally closing the gaps for Latino and black students in college attainment.

University of Pennsylvania School of Education assistant professors Rand Quinn and Matthew Steinberg find in the state of Pennsylvania an unprecedented opportunity to examine what happens when state policymakers change budget formulas in order to deliver equitable and adequate education funding. Arkansas State Board of Education Member Jay Barth examines his state’s struggles and successes with delivering equitable education, and NASBE’s Ace Parsi offers his personal experience living the achievement gap as a student. Other highlights in this issue include a federal education update, an interview with long-time social justice advocate and Massachusetts State Board of Education Member Margaret McKenna, and a new data feature, this month looking at the projected increase, by state, of students benefiting from the federal E-rate program.

Read the full May 2015 issue of The State Education Standard. Individual articles can be downloaded here.

The National Association of State Boards of Education represents America’s state and territorial boards of education. Our principal objectives are to strengthen state leadership in education policymaking, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, promote excellence in the education of all students, and ensure responsible lay governance of education. Learn more at