There was little doubt that there was a problem. A series of studies conducted in the ’00s had concluded that students of color in Washington were falling behind; they were disproportionately represented in populations with low graduation rates and poor post-secondary outcomes. Yet the reporting across the state at the time was largely uncoordinated, making it difficult to know how large the gap was.
So in 2009, Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction appointed a work group to identify structural barriers and recommend policy aimed at resolving racial disparities in K-12 education outcomes.
The Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee’s (EOGOAC) first task was to analyze key findings in those studies. EOGOAC pinpointed several areas of focus for reducing disparities in achievement. This would need to be done, the group concluded, by closing gaps in opportunities for students by employing culturally responsive curricula and educators, community engagement, and creating pathways for teacher diversity.
The committee also suggested statewide data collection guidelines for performance indicators, such as school discipline instances, graduation rates and academic assessment outcomes by student demographics.
Since then, a number of school districts across Washington state have responded to the data, implementing their own policies and plans designed to intentionally target the academic success of students of color. But data shows much work is still needed to fill those gaps.