Identifying and Supporting Underrepresented High School Students

High rates of drop-out, failure, and underperformance, especially among minority and low-income students, are testimony to the way school systems can fail those it should be lifting up. What are the key indicators we should track to ensure we progress towards equity and equality in education?
People Impacted
$ 550B
Potential Funding
I have this challenge
the problem
Nature and Context

In the United States, poorer students from minority backgrounds are often failed due to largely under-resourced public education systems, resulting in a lack of exposure to more challenging and interesting opportunities to learn, while also suffering from the low expectations of their teachers. The impact of low expectations, and the subsequent resource allocation cycle, limits students who could otherwise excel.

Research suggests that each year over 600,000 low-income students in the U.S. miss out on the opportunity to be placed in advanced classes that could provide the training they need to succeed in post-secondary institutions.

Inequality in education begins before students reach high school and the chance to take advanced courses, and persists long after school. As soon as the fourth grade, the average Black student fails to reach basic reading levels and scored 32 points below their average white peers; Hispanic students score, on average, 27 points lower than their white peers (USAFacts).

These early differences in test scores hold relatively constant throughout primary and secondary schooling, and remain so over time. From fourth to 12th grade, white students consistently score 25 to 30 points higher than Black students, and 20 to 25 points higher than Hispanic students (USAFacts).

Symptoms and Causes

Racial Segregation and Academic Achievement Gaps

The legacy of racism and segregation in America's public institutions has resulted in a racial achievement gap in the education system. Racial segregation is harmful to low-income and minority students because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are less effective than low-poverty schools (Stanford CEPA).

Educational outcomes for minority and low-income children are much more a function of their unequal access to key educational resources, including skilled teachers and quality curriculum, than they are a function of race (Darling-Hammond).

Health-Related Absenteeism

Low-income and disadvantaged school-aged children have less access to routine and preventative healthcare. Support measures must integrate student health to maximize the benefit of increased in-school and curriculum-based resources.

Normalized Remediation

In high schools with higher proportions of disadvantaged students, teachers have little time and few resources to challenge exceptional students who can overcome hardships in many facets of their lives that typically interfere with learning. (Economic Policy Institute)

the impact
Negative Effects

The racial achievement gap, and expectations of public education professionals and systems of low-income and minority students, has created an environment that perpetuates disparity in educational and economic opportunity through generations. Unequal educational experiences sortable by identity result in the racialization of:

  • Drop-out rates

  • Failure

  • Underperformance

Research by Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford University, shows that poor students from minority backgrounds in the U.S. often fall behind because they are not exposed to more challenging and interesting opportunities to learn, and suffer from the low expectations of their teachers.

Success Metrics
  • Increased K-12 graduation rates (data available from USAFacts)

  • Increased enrollment for low-income and minority students in AP and IB programs.

  • Improved aggregate standardized test scores for low-income and minority students (data available from USAFacts)

  • Increased participation of student success organizations in underperforming schools and districts.

who benefits from solving this problem
Organization Types
  • School districts

  • AP and IB programs

  • Superintendent of Public Instruction

  • Students

  • Parents

  • Schools

  • Districts

  • Counties

  • State Education Systems

financial insights
Current Funding
Ideas Description

Tech Solutions

Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS) uses sophisticated data mining techniques to identify students who would benefit from moving into advanced classes which are more interesting and challenging. That helps keep them motivated and improves their results, quite dramatically.

EOS partners with school, district, county and state leaders around the country, identifying thousands of “missing students” and developing systems to ensure these capable students are enrolling and succeeding in the high school classes that will best prepare them to achieve their college goals. EOC works with a vast database of all students on AP and IB programs to create ways to pinpoint high-potential students who are being overlooked.

Upchieve Free Tutoring Service connects low-income students with live academic support to mitigate some of the impacts of under-resourced schools and districts. In particular, Upchieve provides free 24/7 math tutoring to high school students, and partners directly with schools and nonprofit organizations to provide an online platform that delivers high quality academic support.

Beyond 12 is increasing the number of low-income, first-generation, and historically underrepresented students who graduate from college. In partnership with high schools and colleges, our technology platform and our coaches together provide students with the academic, social, and emotional support they need to succeed in higher education and in life.

ReliablyME is empowering students with a good character credential that attests to their reliability, personal integrity, and self/social worth based on objective evidence of keeping their commitments. ReliablyME is commitment-based nudging technology that affects and tracks desirable behavioral outcomes. Students using ReliablyME get recognized for their level of commitment to personal development that eases their access to higher education and employment.

The mission of Almost Fun is to ensure BIPOC and low-income students have culturally-responsive, relatable, and accessible learning resources that are engaging and help them understand their world. Our approach is grounded in the basics of cultural-responsiveness, with the belief that familiar and safe learning environments inspire learning.

We Read Too is a mobile directory of hundreds of picture, chapter, middle grade and young adult books written by authors of color featuring main characters of color. Whether you are a parent, librarian, teacher or student, We Read Too is the best resource for you to find diverse books for youth readers.

Data Sources
Contributors to this Page
Input Needed From Contributing Editors
(click on any tag to contribute)