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Elementary Schools for Equity: Policies and Practices that Help Close the Opportunity Gap

Abstract

"In 2007, the School Redesign Network, now a project of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, partnered with Justice Matters, an organization committed to promoting racial justice, to author a report titled High Schools for Equity. It profiled a set of California high schools that were highly effective in preparing students of color from low-income families for college and career success. The report initiated a larger conversation among educators and policy makers about what can be done to improve outcomes for all California students.

In 2008, the San Francisco Unified School District invited a team of researchers, including the authors of this report, to study schools within the city, including elementary schools that were, like those profiled in High Schools for Equity, achieving strong educational outcomes with low-income students of color. This report sought to identify schools in San Francisco that could be used as models for district and school leaders in achieving the district's three goals: access and equity, achievement, and accountability.

The authors found many highly effective schools that supported these goals, and selected four to study in depth. Subsequent research, conducted throughout the 2008-2009 school year, was guided by the following questions:

What practices, structures, and policies allow these schools to increase "academic productivity" and close achievement gaps?

What replicable characteristics do these schools share that could be used to promote a more equitable education in other schools?

The report's findings have implications not only for improving the educational experiences of students in San Francisco, but also in California and beyond. Elementary Schools for Equity illustrates that creating a system that supports the learning of all students is not an impossibility, but it does take clarity of vision and purposeful, consistent action to create, systematically, a web of supportive elements that are mutually reinforcing. This report describes how these kinds of school designs can become the norm rather than the exception."

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