The education realm is crowded with facts and opinions alike. For advocates, it can often be difficult to determine what voices to lift up in a sea of competing research and write-ups. But some work rises to the top for its ability to tell important stories and communicate key strategies. “The Opportunity Myth,” a new report out of The New Teacher Project (or TNTP), is a great example.
The report is based on a 12-month in-depth observation of 5 school systems, 1,000 lessons, 5,000 assignments, 20,000 student work samples, and 30,000 student surveys. Both charters and traditional districts were represented. TNTP sought to measure the presence of four “key resources”:
- Grade appropriate assignments
- Strong instruction
- Deep engagement
- High expectations
Their findings are as significant as they are shocking. “Students spent more than 500 hours per school year on assignments that weren’t appropriate for their grade and with instruction that didn’t ask enough of them—the equivalent of six months of wasted class time in each core subject.”
More encouragingly, a focus on these four elements can account for huge gains in outcome: “When students who start the year behind receive these resources—achievement gaps shrink.” But all too often, the distribution of these resources is shaped not by need, but along racial and socioeconomic lines: “4 out of 10 classrooms with a majority of students of color never received a single grade-level assignment.”
The writers are clear this situation is not the fault of any one group of education stakeholders, but instead the responsibility of all teachers, administrators, local officials, and community members alike. With that in mind, it provides clear recommendations we can all begin to act upon:
- Ask students and families directly about their goals and school experiences.
- Make greater access to grade-appropriate assignments an urgent priority for all students
- Give all students access to engaging instruction and challenging material
- Ensure educators enact high expectations for student success
- Conduct an equity audit to identify school- and district-level decisions that give some students greater access than others to key resources
The recommendations come alongside student voices that are compelling and inspiring as we all continue to strive towards excellence. We hope you’ll keep them in mind in whatever capacity you interact with your local schools.