New research illustrates how public schools can ensure equality of opportunity

From the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice

For more than 150 years, Horace Mann’s vision of public education becoming the “balance wheel” of the social structure has been a driving force behind education policymaking in the United States.  Mann envisioned the education system to be the one institution to address inequalities in larger society. However, substantial disparities in educational resources, opportunities, and outcomes undermine his vision in today’s schools.

A new brief, Investing in Equal Opportunity: What Would It Take to Build the Balance Wheel?, written by Jennifer King Rice, University of Maryland, investigates the elements necessary for more universal equality of opportunities.  The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) published the brief, with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Professor Rice describes the current U.S. school system, with its own inequities, as being insufficient to counter-balance opportunity gaps in schools due to poverty, discrimination, or other outside-school forces.

Rice’s brief describes resources both within the traditional education sphere and reaching beyond it, expanding the role of education in addressing all students’ needs.

She makes the following recommendations for policymakers:

  1. Recognize the broad goals of education such as civic responsibility, democratic values, economic self-sufficiency, and social and economic opportunity.
  2. Ensure that all schools have the fundamental resources necessary for student success, especially for those students with disadvantaged backgrounds
  3. Expand the scope services of schools in high-poverty neighborhoods, providing wrap-around services such as nutritional supports and health clinics.
  4. Promote a policy context supportive of equal opportunity and sensitive to local circumstances.

Rice, in her conclusion states, “the real justification for these investments is our nation’s commitment to equity, and the recognition that our public education system is a key mechanism for leveling the playing field so that every child, regardless of background, has a fair opportunity to participate in our social, political, and economic institutions.”

Find the brief on the Great Lakes Center website:

The brief can also be found on the NEPC website: