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The NYS Task Force on Comprehensive Educational Opportunity

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The NYS Task Force on Comprehensive Educational Opportunity


Closing Achievement Gaps: An Urgent National Priority

Research shows little difference in mental ability among very young children, yet achievement gaps for low-income and minority children begin before they start school and widen throughout their school careers. After closing rapidly during the 1970s, black-white and Latino-white achievement gaps began to grow again in the late 1980s and have remained fairly consistent since the late 1990s. Today, on average African-American and Latino students rank at about the 30th percentile of achievement, as compared with their white peers who score on average at the 61st percentile.

The causes of these achievement gaps are complex, and we are just now beginning to understand them fully. Low-income and minority families’ inequitable access to health care, stable housing, and early childhood education, among other resources, put their children at an academic disadvantage even before they begin school. Because these children attend income- and race-segregated schools that commonly receive less funding and have fewer qualified teachers, more teacher and student turnover, less challenging curricula, larger classes, and poorer facilities than schools attended by more affluent white students, they continue to fall further and further behind.

These inequities carry enormous costs. Thirty years ago high school dropouts earned about 64% of the amount earned by diploma recipients; in 2004 they earned only 37%. For the nation as a whole, the annual price tag of inadequately educating our young people is staggering, in the realm of $250 billion per year in lost tax revenues, health and welfare costs, and criminal justice expenses. The heavy toll on the social and civic fabric of the nation is an additional, inestimable price that we all pay ever year. We can ill afford this price in even flush times; in lean times, like those we are currently facing, the obligation to stop these losses becomes an absolute necessity.

What It Will Really Take: A Comprehensive Approach

We need a national education policy that pursues the systematic delivery to public school students of the in- and out-of-school resources determined most vital for meaningful educational opportunity.

Meaningful educational opportunity includes high quality teaching; reasonable class sizes; a full and rigorous curriculum; up-to-date libraries, laboratories, and technology; and safe school buildings - resources not reliably available in schools that serve students from low-income and minority families. In addition, it includes complementary, “out-of-school” supports and services that address the full range of physical, social, economic, political, and psychological factors that indisputably affect children’s readiness and ability to succeed in school.

Advocates and policymakers have embraced a comprehensive approach in the past, but it has never achieved the grounding in law and policy it needs to be sustained and implemented on a broad basis.

The Time Has Come

The Campaign for Educational Equity believes that all children have a right to meaningful educational opportunities and that America’s prime national educational goal, the elimination of achievement gaps between disadvantaged students and advantaged students, cannot be achieved unless a concerted effort is made to provide such opportunities. Meaningful educational opportunities are comprehensive; they encompass:

  • The resources and effective services children need in school to obtain a sound basic education;
  • The additional coordinated out of school services and supports that children from backgrounds of poverty need in order to succeed in school;
  • Constancy in the provision of these resources and services throughout each child’s educational career, despite changes in external economic conditions.

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Goal: To establish a state-level right to meaningful educational opportunity, defined comprehensively, and to ensure that adequate resources are available, particularly for children from poverty.

Strategy: Based on three years of research and analysis, and our past involvement in CFE v. State of New York, we are convening a task force to develop and implement a policy of meaningful educational opportunity for New York State.

Task Force Objectives:

  1. To sponsor legal and policy research, cost analysis, public engagement, and policy development to develop a concrete program and legislative proposals to provide all students the range of quality resources and services they need on a stable basis.
  2. To promote the development of comprehensive educational opportunity models that can be implemented within the next two years in a number of high needs schools and later on a large scale.
  3. To foster dialogue and action among community groups and families to promote practices that support children’s academic development.

Timing: In the current economy, it is critical to raise policymakers’ awareness of the contribution of comprehensive resources to school success, and of the importance of maintaining the stability of educational services, particularly for children from poverty. And, while the economic conditions for new programs are not ideal right now, we anticipate that by the time we are ready to propose specific new funding initiatives, the climate will have substantially improved.

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(list in formation)

  • The After School Corporation
  • Alliance for Quality Education
  • Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
  • Campaign for Fiscal Equity
  • Center for New York City Affairs at the New School
  • Chemung County School Readiness Project
  • Child Care, Inc.
  • Children’s Aid Society
  • Citizens Committee for Children
  • Groundwork, Inc.
  • Harlem Children’s Zone
  • Metrocenter for Urban Education at New York University
  • New York City Department of Education
  • New York City Mission Society
  • New York State After-School Network
  • New York State Council of School Superintendents
  • New York State School Boards Association
  • New York State United Teachers
  • Say Yes to Education
  • Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy
  • Turnaround for Children
  • United Federation of Teachers

We also have the active cooperation of the New York State deputy secretary for education and the governor’s Children’s Cabinet.

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The Comprehensive Educational Opportunity Approach

PolicyLink and Harlem Children's Zone. (2008). Promise Neighborhoods: Recommendations for a National Children’s Anti-Poverty Program Inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone.

Harlem Children's Zone (2009). The Harlem Children's Zone Model. Executive Summary. New York, NY: Harlem Children's Zone.

Early Childhood Education

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The Campaign for Educational Equity
Educational equity - a moral imperative for the 21st century
Box 219, 525 W 120th Street
New York, New York 10027
Phone: 212-678-3291