The Educational Opportunity Monitoring Project: Learning how to Reduce Educational Inequality from Detailed Educational Data

Project Date:
Mar 2016
Award Amount:
Project Programs:
Co-funded Research
Social Inequality

Co-funded with the W.T. Grant Foundation

Sean Reardon's prior research has provided compelling evidence that the achievement gap between high and low-income students has been increasing over time and is now higher than at any time in the last 50 years. He has also shown that during the last 20 years, racial achievement gaps have been declining but still remain quite large. In addition, other measures of educational inequality, such as high school graduation rates, college enrollment, and college completion rates show similarly large racial and socioeconomic disparities.

Reardon argues that social scientists and policy researchers have documented national trends and patterns in educational inequality, but have not focused much on how to reduce those inequities. For the most part, this is because researchers have analyzed national or state-level data, and many of the fundamental processes that produce and sustain inequality—such as teacher and curricula selection, teacher and student assignments to schools and classrooms, and the allocation of resources—operate at the classroom, school or district level.

In order to foster new research on policies, practices and programs that are most likely to improve educational inequalities, Reardon and his colleagues have assembled a large-scale administrative database, the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA), that covers every public school and school district in the United States. Most notably, 200 million test scores from all public school students in grades 3-8 from 2009-2012 are included. This project will support small grants to researchers using the data to investigate issues and policies relevant to educational inequalities.

Projects Funded in 2016:

Something in the Water? Environmental Toxicity and Racial Achievement Gaps

Lucy Sorensen (SUNY Albany)  – $19,816

Sorenson will investigate the links between exposure to environmental toxins and academic achievement gaps. She will match detailed achievement data from the Stanford Education Data Archive (SEDA) to environmental hazard data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in order to explore how variations in lead exposure across different neighborhoods affect educational outcomes by race.

The Great Recession, Fiscal Federalism and Student Achievement

Matthew P. Steinberg and Kenneth Shores (University of Pennsylvania) – $20,000

Steinberg and Shores will use SEDA to examine how the Great Recession and the federal government’s subsequent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) affected academic outcomes across all school districts. They will study whether the recession exacerbated racial achievement gaps, whether the recession disproportionately affected school districts serving higher concentrations of low-income and minority students, and whether the federal fiscal stimulus was able to offset any of the recession’s effects on student achievement.

The Impact of Full-day Kindergarten on Academic Achievement

Chloe Gibbs (University of Notre Dame) – $19,961

Gibbs will explore how access to full-day kindergarten affects students’ academic achievement. She will couple data from SEDA with data on full-day kindergarten expansions to explore whether providing full-day kindergarten lowers racial and ethnic achievement gaps.

Immigration Enforcement Policy and Hispanic-White Achievement Gaps

Laura Bellows (Duke University) – $6,200

Bellows will study the effects of immigration enforcement policy on the Hispanic-white achievement gap using data from SEDA and the Secure Communities program, a partnership between the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement agencies. She will investigate whether increases in immigration enforcement actions increase Hispanic-white achievement gaps, focusing on differences by student grade and level of school segregation.

Crime and Inequality in Academic Achievement across School Districts in the United States

Gerard Torrats-Espinosa (New York University) – $7,000

Torrats-Espinosa will explore how changes in crime rates over time in both school districts and cities affect racial and ethnic achievement gaps in those places. He will use achievement data from SEDA along with data on police department funding and information on opiate overdoses from the National Center for Health Statistics to investigate the links between spikes in crime rates due to the heroin and opiate epidemic and students’ academic performance.

Universal Access to Free School Meals and Student Performance: Evidence from the Introduction of the Community Eligibility Provision

Krista Ruffini (University of California, Berkeley) – $5,651

Ruffini will examine the causal relationship between access to free meals under the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) program and student academic achievement by merging CEP participation information collected from state educational agencies with SEDA. She will focus in particular on analyzing how school-based nutritional access affects student performance in the short-term.

Understanding the Linkages Between Racial Achievement Gap and Racial Disciplinary Gap in the U.S.

Maithreyi Gopalan (Indiana University) – $6,086

Gopalan will investigate the links between the black-white “disciplinary gap”—or differences in rates of suspension and expulsion between black and white students—and racial academic achievement gaps. Using data from SEDA, she will look at how racial disciplinary gaps vary across districts and trace how the linkage between racial achievement gaps and racial disciplinary gaps varies across school districts.

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