While faring better than their peers in high-poverty schools, students of color and low-income students in wealthier schools still lag behind their higher-income and white classmates. This is largely due to unequal access to educational, personal and sociopolitical resources outside of school, according to an extensive report by Public Impact, commissioned by the Oak Foundation.
The authors recommend that leaders of low-poverty schools do more to provide "outstanding learning for all, secure and healthy learners, and a culture of equity within low- and moderate-poverty schools."
The report examined approaches with evidence of boosting outcomes for disadvantaged students without reducing the availability of advanced instruction. When all students get the help they need to advance, all will need what schools today consider “advanced” instruction. Second, schools that serve all students well, regardless of background, build strong community commitment to public education, the report says.
District leaders who pursue such strategies may help equip large numbers of low-income students and students of color to achieve at high levels The report notes that how strategies are put into action is nearly as important as the strategies themselves. Effective approaches can include committing publicly to achieving equity with measurable goals and clear timelines, and embracing accountability for the promised progress, both through internal systems and under public scrutiny.
The report recommends district leaders employ research-based strategies, such as screening for and addressing learning differences, using personalized instruction, responding to trauma, instituting school-based health clinics, addressing mental health needs and hiring teachers who match the racial and other identities of their students. They also recommend culturally relevant assignments, non-discriminatory discipline policies and addressing implicit bias with ongoing anti-bias training.
These research-based recommendations for low-poverty, diverse schools line up with efforts many high-poverty, racially homogeneous schools and districts are already taking in terms of providing students of color with more role models who look like them and rethinking discipline with efforts to curb the school-to-prison pipeline.