Education leaders commit more than $100M to enroll 100,000 new low-income students and students of color in advanced academic classes

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A consortium of education, philanthropy and business leaders announced today commitments to spend a combined $100 million over three years to identify and enroll 100,000 low-income students and students of color in Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) high school classes across the country.

“We know how to reach the students who are missing these opportunities, and we know they are eager for academic challenges,” said Reid Saaris, founder & CEO of Equal Opportunity Schools, the non-profit leading the effort. “Our national conversation is moving away from a focus on student deficits toward school leaders who see great strength and possibility in previously underserved students.”

Partners in the effort include:

  • Equal Opportunity Schools
  • The College Board
  • Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
  • Tableau Software, Inc.
  • The International Baccalaureate Organization
  • Google.org

The full text of the commitment, called “Lead Higher,” follows this release.

“We are committing to fully reflect America’s diversity at the highest academic levels in our K-12 schools,” representatives from the partnership group said jointly during a meeting Tuesday at Google’s Washington, D.C. office. The project is described as the largest and most-targeted effort ever to ensure low-income students and students of color are woven into the fabric of high academic achievement.

Members of President Obama’s federal My Brothers Keeper Task Force were also in attendance, including senior White House officials and the U.S. Department of Education’s John King, Senior Advisor delegated duties of Deputy Secretary.

The effort is one of several recent independent commitments that support the goals of the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative to unlock the full potential of young people, including boys and young men of color. The MBK Task Force, comprised of 18 federal agencies, has published a report with recommendations for growing student achievement, including expanding access to and successful completion of rigorous courses.

Baseline data, additional measurements of success and details on how to participate for new districts and those already working with EOS are expected by summer’s end.

Over the past two years, with $1.8 million in seed funding from Google.org, Equal Opportunity Schools has worked with 63 districts across the country to close fully participation gaps in AP and IB courses. It has helped more than 10,000 students across 11 states seize the opportunity of advanced classes. Additionally, Equal Opportunity Schools has studied the issue of advanced course access and success with data from every U.S. high school, and gathered best practices where strong leadership and access to deep data has resulted in equitable access and greatly enhanced academic success.

“There is one clear, undeniable benefit awarded to every single student who enrolls in AP: opportunity,” said Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP & Instruction at the College Board. “When coupled with a student’s hard work, that opportunity can have myriad outcomes, whether it is learning to craft an effective argument, discovering a lifelong passion, building confidence, earning credit for college, or persisting to graduate college on time. We’re proud to play a role in expanding access to challenging work.”

“This ambitious initiative will show on a national scale that high-ability, low-income students can and will succeed in advanced academics when given equitable access,” said Harold Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “Plain and simple, we want to close the Excellence Gap, and we need advanced learning opportunities for bright, low-income students if we are going to do so.”

Text of the Lead Higher Commitment

We, the participants in the “Lead Higher” collaborative, hereby commit –

1. To dedicate substantial effort to ensuring that America’s diversity is fully reflected at the highest academic levels in our K-12 schools.

a. Given America’s commitment to equal educational opportunities as a foundation for social justice and economic vitality;

b. Given the need to elevate the national conversation about what’s academically possible for low-income students and students of color far beyond the recent decade+ focus on proficiency, and given that the achievement gap at advanced levels has expanded significantly in the past decade; and

c. Given today’s opportunity to announce the largest commitment ever to equity at the highest academic levels, and the first major collaboration by providers of advanced coursework.

2. To serve an additional 100,000 low-income students and students of color in AP & IB courses over the next three years. a. Given that about 650,000 more low-income students and students of color per year should be represented in the AP/IB course-taking population, but are not.

3. To increase by five-fold the number of schools that fully reflect their school population’s diversity in AP & IB courses over the next three years.

a. Given that the race and income AP/IB access gaps are driven at the school level and would be nearly closed nationally if within-school gaps were closed;

b. Given that currently, fewer than 1% of diverse schools nationwide have significant AP/IB programs in which the AP/IB students reflect the diversity of the overall school population; and

c. Given multiple examples that schools can close these gaps in a single year while boosting AP/IB exam passage.

4. To collaborate with one another to find innovative ways to achieve equity in advanced high school courses, connecting:

  • The deep data and school coaching experience of Equal Opportunity Schools;
  • The proven experience of College Board, a membership organization, in helping to prepare and propel all students toward college success;
  • The proven school wide transformational practices of an international education as required by the International Baccalaureate; and
  • The essential support and perspective of our many foundation, non-profit, and business partners

5. To report results using a set of shared metrics that promote collaboration, common understanding, and cross-organizational progress, with an intention of announcing these metrics and baselines by September 2015.

Pledged this 28th day of April, 2015, in Washington, D.C.