84% of States Fail To Provide Students an Opportunity To Learn

The Schott Foundation for Public Education found that only eight of 50 states provided disadvantaged students equitable access to moderately proficient public education systems.

The study shows minority and low-income students have only half the opportunity to learn in our public schools as their White non-Latino peers.

The data was summarized in Lost Opportunity: A 50-State Report on the Opportunity to Learn in America, a state-by-state study released by the Schott Foundation for Public Education. The study analyzed student performance data reported by state departments of education to determine both the quality of and access to instruction provided in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“This serves as a wake-up call to every governor, legislature, state education commissioner, and schools superintendent that falsely believes we are getting the job done in our classrooms,” said Dr. John Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation. “According to their own data, only eight states are providing a moderately proficient, high-access public education to all. After a decade of leaving no child behind, we are finding an entire generation of students is again all but forgotten.”

Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Washington, Vermont, and Virginia were the only states identified as providing both a moderate-proficiency and high-access education for all students.

Rounding out the bottom, eight states – Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia, along with the District of Columbia – appear to provide low-proficiency and low-access education, according to their own data.

Some states provided moderately proficient education for most students but demonstrated low access when providing that education to historically disadvantaged students. These states included: Connecticut, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Seventeen states were found to provide high-access, but low-proficiency education to their students. These states included: Alabama, Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee, and Utah.

The state-by-state data, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, and income, can be found at

“Over the past decade, we have declared that data is king in education improvement,” Jackson said. “The state data is clear. If you are a Black, Latino, Native American, or low-income student in this country, odds are you are not receiving high-quality learning opportunities. After more than a half century, we are still not providing truly equal educational opportunities to all students. After more than a quarter century, our nation is still very much at risk. Quality for a few and access for some is hardly the standard to which we should hold our states and school districts.”

Delving deeper into the state-provided data, only six states offer Black students a relatively equal opportunity to learn, compared to their White, non-Latino peers. Eighty percent of states fail to offer Latino students a fairly good opportunity to learn, while nearly 80 percent of states fail to offer low-income students a strong opportunity to learn. Low-income students have the highest opportunity learn in those states with low minority populations.

The report highlights the educational and economic effects of that gap. California and New York each account for 15 percent of the nation’s nearly $60 billion annual economic burden attributable to opportunity to learn inequities. Texas accounts for an additional 12 percent. The next three states — Illinois, Michigan and Pennsylvania — account for 5 percent each. New York’s share of the economic effect of inequity is nearly three times its percentage of the national population.