By: Christina Gordon, Senior Director

This article originally appeared on July 11, 2018 in Opportunity Nation

The Opportunity Index is an important and vital resource which has been meaningful to the work of ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning. The Center focuses on closing gaps in equity, opportunity and achievement for underserved populations by furthering ACT’s mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success. We leverage our research and work closely with strategic partners to advance that mission.

The Opportunity Index and the indicators that comprise it aim to measure what opportunity looks like in the United States. In particular, the Index’s Education dimension is of interest as it examines important aspects of educational success, such as preschool enrollment, on-time high school graduation rate and postsecondary education rate.

The Opportunity Index is also useful to the work of the Center, which focuses on the nation as a whole. The Index provides data for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and for nearly 2,100 individual counties, which together represent 97 percent of the U.S. population. To understand the big picture, we need to better understand what is happening in particular places.

Oklahoma, for instance, ranks below all the national education averages included in the Opportunity Index, whereas Massachusetts is fourth highest in the country and ranks particularly high on the education stats. These data can give us valuable information as we look at the landscape of education equity, seek to understand and address shortcomings and challenges, and elevate best practices where we find them.

The Opportunity Index provides guideposts that, together with the ACT Holistic Framework, can give us direction for ways that student, school, and system outcomes can be improved. The Holistic Framework is a guide to the domains of knowledge and skills that people need from early education through career; considered together, these domains provide a more integrated picture of education and work readiness by beginning to map core academic skills, cross-cutting capabilities and behavioral skills, as well as education and career navigation.

We encourage all states and stakeholders to examine the Opportunity Index hand in hand with ACT’s Holistic Framework to better understand how and where opportunity occurs and to consider what can be done to improve access to opportunity and the support needed to realize it.

About ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning

ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning focuses on closing gaps in equity, opportunity and achievement for underserved populations and working learners. Through purposeful investments, employee engagement, and thoughtful advocacy efforts, the Center supports innovative partnerships, actionable research, initiatives, campaigns, and programs to further ACT’s mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success.