Access to AP classes and AP testing results have long been marred by racial and economic inequities. Mostly African-American and mostly Latino high schools face AP opportunity gaps, created by state and local funding formulas, teacher placements, and most importantly, an expectations gap, says Reid Saaris, founder of Equal Opportunity Schools, a group that helps low-income students of color get access to AP classes.
Diversifying Enrollment in AP or IB Classes
Over 90 percent of all U.S. high schools offer at least one Advanced Placement (AP) course, but within these schools, access to AP differs dramatically based on race and class…EOS sets a goal of closing these participation gaps while maintaining (or increasing) the achievement of students in the programs.
Equal Opportunity Schools began as a small project in South Carolina nearly twelve years ago. As of today, we have enabled tens of thousands of students of color and low-income students to successfully access the high-level learning opportunities they need and deserve. And if we are to achieve our mission to reach the hundreds of thousands still missing each year from America’s most challenging high school classrooms, we need to continue to evolve.
To that end, we will be undergoing a period of leadership change. As with many founder transitions, we are appointing an Interim CEO to help the EOS Board shepherd the organization forward, assess organizational needs, and position us for new long-term leadership to scale our impact to the scope of the national challenge.
Today is my last day as CEO, and I am excited to hand off leadership of the organization to our Interim CEO, Debora Merle. Deb has significant experience in educational leadership, including running the California and Washington State Boards of Education and working with several governors on educational policy.
I will continue to stay engaged with EOS. I’ll be serving on the board of directors and will contribute to the search for a permanent CEO. At the same time, as an advisor to EOS, I will explore creative pathways and partnerships with the potential to significantly increase our impact. On a personal note, I look forward the chance to reflect on all we’ve done, the opportunity to do more writing, and to spend more time with my growing family.
It’s hard to imagine a more meaningful professional experience than this one has been – a chance to build something profoundly impactful with a team and partners from whom I have learned so much. Though founders are often credited with the “big idea,” this idea was never mine. This work has been, and will continue to be, about the lived experiences of close to a million students each year who are overlooked and underestimated for no good reason. The inequities they experience are inherently disturbing, and call us all to action. Through our shared efforts, we have been able to make significant progress, and build a foundation for greater future impact.
Just consider some of the accomplishments we achieved so far working together:
- Added tens of thousands of students of color and low-income students to the advanced courses they need and deserve.
- Developed an amazing team of leaders – now 70 FTE strong – with incredible passion, skills, diligence, and wisdom for the work of bringing equity to the highest levels of our public schools.
- Developed $46M in philanthropic and service revenue with amazing partners to advance our mission.
- Grew the initial work from one school to 550 high school partners across twenty-nine states.
- With the White House’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, launched the first-ever statewide commitments to fully reflect student diversity at the highest levels of K-12, and collaborated with states on missing students reporting and the adoption of a statewide equity policy.
- Brought together, through a variety of forums including two national symposia, our national network of educational leaders to share their equity journeys and develop greater collective ability to lead our school systems higher on behalf of historically under-served students.
I am forever humbled and grateful to our team; our Board; and our school, state, national, and philanthropic partners. Thank you for your passion, hard work, and dedication to our mission. I have personally and professionally grown while serving as EOS’s CEO.
I eagerly look forward to the day in which students of each and every background have an equal opportunity to succeed at the highest levels. Your continued and incredible efforts on behalf of our shared mission will be essential to getting us there.
Thank you for all you do.
CEO & Founder, Equal Opportunity Schools
Stanford Social Innovation Fellow
EOS Board of Directors Appoints Deb Merle as Interim CEO
Seattle, WA January 28, 2019 – The EOS Board of Directors is very pleased to announce that Debora (Deb) Merle begins today as the Interim CEO for EOS. She replaces Reid Saaris who is stepping down as CEO effective February 1, 2019.
We are fortunate to have an Interim CEO who has passion for our work, unique qualifications for the role, and a highly collaborative style. During Deb’s career in public education research, advocacy and policy making, she worked to advance equity with a particular focus on how best to equip students of color and low-income students for success in college. She was instrumental in the development and implementation of statewide programs that made demonstrable differences in the lives of students in Washington state. Deb has also earned a reputation for ensuring smooth operations as an interim leader of educational organizations during times of significant transition.
Deb Merle said, “Equal Opportunity Schools is an amazing organization full of people dedicated to improving the lives of students of color and low-income students by ensuring access to rigorous high school programs that will prepare them well for college. I’m honored to have been chosen to lead the team during this transition and can’t wait to get started.”
Deb Merle will serve as the Interim CEO until a permanent CEO is hired in the next six to nine months. Reid Saaris will continue to support the organization though his ongoing work with the Board and as an external advisor.
About Equal Opportunity Schools
EOS’s mission is to ensure students of all backgrounds have equal access to America’s most academically intense high school programs, and particularly that low-income students and students of color have opportunities to succeed at the highest levels. The nonprofit organization’s partnership model is consultative, collaborative, and requires a commitment to specific and measurable results. Since its incorporation in 2010, EOS has helped more than 540 schools across 29 states identify tens of thousands of low-income students and students of color who qualify for – but are missing from – Advanced Placement or other rigorous levels of coursework. EOS is headquartered in Seattle, Washington. www.eoschools.org.
For more information, contact:
Tofa McCormick | Marketing Communications Manager | Tofa@EOSchools.org
Eddie Lincoln, senior director with Equal Opportunity Schools, leads a session with local school leaders on how to identify and address racial gaps in AP/IB enrollment and performance.