Equal Opportunity Schools And Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: Transforming Education For Every Student

Equal Opportunity Schools And Chan Zuckerberg Initiative: Transforming Education For Every Student

Eddie Lincoln

This article is one of a series of articles produced by Word in Black through support provided by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Word In Black is  a collaborative of 10 Black-owned media outlets across the country.

By Aaron Allen, The Seattle Medium

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), the philanthropic arm of Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, recently released a report showing the progress made over the last eight years due to their support of various efforts to enhance the educational experience and opportunities of students across the country.

One of the organizations highlighted in the report was Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS), a Seattle-based non-profit that focuses on the encouragement of underrepresented student populations to enroll in upper-level college prep courses.

Through a blend of analysis, partnerships, and data, EOS assisted and supported school districts and their individual schools by providing students, particularly underrepresented students, with pathways to realizing their full academic potential. EOS encourages them to pursue their dreams and accomplish their goals by enrolling in upper-level classes like AP and Dual enrollment programs.

According to their website, EOS looks to enhance a child’s ability to make a significant difference and impact on the world and works with schools to ensure every student is seen, understood, and has the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Eddie Lincoln, CEO of EOS, says that the organization is helping to sustain equal enrollment in the type of education that prepares students for college and beyond.

“EOS is a national nonprofit advocating for equitable enrollment in upper-level courses like API and Dual enrollment,” says Lincoln. “We are the only organization in the country that focuses on this, which is really disheartening for the public educational system. We know through the lens of college boards and a lot of national organizations who offer up these courses that these courses are college-level courses in high school, and they are the best courses to prepare young people for what the rigors look like in college and graduate school.”

Since its inception, CZI has focused on building up research on learning and human development, and translating the findings into practices within the classroom. Their investments have catalyzed new tools and measures designed to foster whole child outcomes. Thanks to the work of their partners, these tools and resources have reached more than 5 million students, funded over 420 organizations, and supported over 6,500 educators of color.

In 2022, EOS received $3 million to support and expand a multi-year redesign of the Action For Equity (A4E) Survey and Student Insight Card. This support has led to a significant increase in the number of students enrolled in advance coursework, and 80 percent of the schools they support have maintained or increased average course pass rates.

“We are proud of our partners’ accomplishments over the past eight years. Thanks to the work of our partners, more schools are embracing a whole child approach to learning, yet we know there is still work to be done to ensure high-quality research-based teaching practices are more accessible to all teachers and students,” said Gaby López, Senior Director, Research to Practice at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. “Organizations like Equal Opportunity Schools who work hand-in-hand with educators and schools to make improvements together play a critical role in driving positive change across the country.”

According to EOS, some of the impacts on school districts around the region and across the country consist of improving student belonging and achievement.

During a yearlong research effort, EOS surveyed two million students to gain insights beyond GPA and test scores to increase enrollment in advanced courses. In the 2022–2023 school year, EOS partnered with 447 high schools and surveyed more than 25,000 educators to measure the effectiveness of the school system and adult mindsets on equity. In addition, EOS ensured over 10,000 additional students were enrolled in advanced courses.

“Equal Opportunity Schools has made great progress towards ensuring every student can reach their full potential,” said López. “Their commitment to expanding access to rigorous academic opportunities to more students–especially those who are often underserved–is a great example of what it takes to combine research with tech tools to help educators meet the needs of every student.”

According to Lincoln, EOS uses a 77-question survey as part of their analysis to help them gain deeper insights about young people. The survey helps them identify and understand the challenges they face in their lives, whether or not they are receiving adult encouragement, and understand their aspirations to attend two-year and four-year colleges, vocational schools.

“[From our research], we know that 48 percent of kids in public education say they lack the adult encouragement to push themselves academically,” says Lincoln. “38 percent of young people of color say they do not have the information to make informed decisions as to why they should take a more rigorous course in high school. There’s an expectation gap amongst these young people in these environments.”

Through EOS’ analysis, they uncover the mindset and needs of students as well as the culture of the schools to assess what is needed to ensure that students of color and low-income students are afforded the same opportunities to prepare them for the challenges and rigors of college life and life after post-secondary education.

“The 77-question survey is really to discover the insights of the kids,” says Lincoln. “But also, the overall school culture. What is taking place, what classes are kids finding to be challenging or not challenging, we do a lot of compare and contrast.”

“Often underrepresented students, your Black and Brown, Latino, low-income white student are being locked out of the courses, and they are not invited for a number of reasons,” added Lincoln. “So, EOS’ sole purpose is helping schools identify more young people to enroll in the college-level courses to prepare them for college but also life. Without a strong education, a foundation from high school, how can you be a successful college student, let alone go on to have careers one day.”

“We are trying to even the playing field before young people step into college,” he concluded.

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