December 01 2021 | Papers

Addressing Inequities in the US K-12 Education System

Nora Gordon, Sarah Reber

American public schools do not successfully prepare all students for careers or college. Significant disparities in educational outcomes by race, ethnicity, economic disadvantage, and disability are persistent. At the same time, outcomes for schools serving similar student populations vary considerably. Making equitable progress will require shoring up fundamentals throughout the K-12 system: how staff are trained, recruited and retained, and supported in their work; curriculum; safe and healthy school buildings; and how these components are organized and used in schools. This would mark a shift away from an emphasis on “silver bullet” interventions to improve schools. Some schools and districts will require additional resources and supports. These efforts are complicated due to the federalist landscape of elementary and secondary education, where states, local school districts, and the federal government all play important roles. Quick fixes are few and far between, but improvements to school infrastructure stand out as low-hanging fruit. We should learn from past efforts to improve the impact of educational policy and philanthropy going forward, with careful attention to strengthening the research base.


Executive Summary

Education & Workforce