opportunity gap: education

Opportunity gap : “the unequal or inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities,”.

The educational playing field is uneven before students even step into the classroom for the first time. Factors such as race, socioeconomic status, gender, proficiency in English, and other environmental factors impact students in a way that can hinder them from achieving the same academic success as their peers.

“Tragically, the opportunity gap starts before kindergarten and continues into the college years”

—Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Early Childhood Education:Importance and access

On average, our black children do not have the same access to early childhood education that affluent white families do. Early childhood education plays a pivotal role in the development, academic, and personal success of children early on and later in life

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As of July 2017, approximately 6,100 three- and four-year olds live in Asheville and Buncombe County. Roughly 29% of these children live in poverty, disproportionately affecting African-American children. Data gathered by the Asheville-Buncombe Preschool Planning Collaborative (ABPPC) Research Work Group show that the need for high-quality preschool is in a near-crisis state. Survey results show that the demand is high for preschool programs, yet only about one-third of the eligible preschool population (2,100 children) is currently being served. This leaves two-thirds of eligible preschoolers not benefiting from early education.

The reasons for that gap are many:

  • High-quality preschool is expensive and difficult for families to afford it.

  • Preschools are scarce. There are currently not enough high-quality preschool providers in Buncombe County to meet the demand.

  • The preschool profession is undervalued and there are not enough people entering the early education profession

Early childhood education matters; 90% of brain development occurs within the first five years of life. A high-quality early childhood education can impact graduation rates by as much as 44%, children are more likely to attain a college degree, hold a well-paying job, own a home, be healthy, and avoid the criminal justice system. Studies have shown high quality Pre-K programs can deliver benefits through fifth grade. In addition, access to early education reduced special education placements in third grade by 39%

Source: buncombepfc.org/

Basic Skills Proficiency: Grade 3 and beyond

Early childhood education sets children up for success in primary and secondary schooling. However, Black children often do not have access to affordable and high quality early education services; putting black students at a disadvantage from the first time they step into the classroom.

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In the 2016-2017 school year, White students enrolled in Asheville City Schools in grades 3-8 were 4.6 times more likely to score “Career and College Ready” on EOC’s than their Black peers

Students Grade 3-8 "College and Career Ready" on End-of-Grade Exams by Race

Source: http://youthjusticenc.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/Asheville-City-Schools.pdf

Opportunity Gap and Secondary EOC Scores

Children who are not on grade level by third grade have a hard time catching up later on because academic work gets more rigorous and does not wait for others who are lagging behind. Students who are struggling academically, are often pushed onto the next grade without the extra support they need. As students move into higher grade levels, the gap between white students and students of color only gets bigger

English II EOC Proficiency


Out Of School Time Oppurtunity Gap: 6,000 hours

Although black and white students attend the same schools, they do not have the same access to after school and summer opportunities. Factors such as transportation, financial availability, and educational tracking hinder equal enrollment in programs among black and white students

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Affluent and middle-class white families have access to resources to fill their child’s afternoons and summers with activities to they believe are essential to their child’s education that prepare them for success in college and beyond. However, parents of color and parents who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds usually cannot access those same resources. They are also usually the same parents who work longer hours, including those crucial after school and summer vacation hours. So, while summer and after school activities may lead to learning advances for affluent and middle-class children, it often leans towards learning losses for the children in families without those means. This is why it is so crucial to have equitable, high quality after school and summer programs for our most vulnerable students.

Between first through twelfth grade, children spend roughly 20% of their waking hours in school and roughly 80% of waking hours outside of school. Like academics, after school and summer programming is critically important to the success of our students. Studies have found that consistent participation in high-quality after school programs leads to positive associations with student’s overall academic performance, reduced unexcused school absences, and improvements on behavior.

We are currently doing in depth research about how accessible after school and summer opportunities are for Asheville families, especially families of color. Until we complete our research, please enjoy the list of current after school and summer providers we feel are providing equitable access to high quality programs to children and their families.

Know of an after school or summer program you believe is equitably serving the Asheville area? Let us know! 

Sources: http://www.annenberginstitute.org/