While the achievement gap has dominated policy discussions over the past two decades, relatively little attention has been paid to a gap that is even more at odds with American ideals: the opportunity gap. Opportunity and achievement, while inextricably connected, are very different goals. Every American will not go to college, but every American should be given fair opportunities to be prepared for college. By obsessively focusing on measuring achievement, the nation's policymakers have made little progress in measuring or addressing inequitable opportunities. Policy therefore fails to engage with the challenges, supports, and resources that lead to improvements in student learning. The achievement gap has not arisen by coincidence; children learn when they have opportunities to learn, and gaps in opportunities have led to gaps in achievement. Moreover, students' learning experiences and outcomes are deeply affected by many factors outside of the immediate control of schools. Closing the Opportunity Gap brings together top experts who offer evidence-based essays that paint a powerful picture of denied opportunities.
They also describe sensible, research-based policy approaches to enhance opportunities. They highlight the discrepancies that exist in our society and in our public schools, focusing on how policy decisions and broader circumstances conspire to create the opportunity gap that leads inexorably to the outcome differences that have become so stark. The volume makes a compelling case that American educational policy must move beyond the conventional focus on achievement and opens a discussion about the common sense ways schools can and should give all American children more equitable opportunities to thrive.