July 28, 2015
Unleashing the Potential of “Missing” Students with Equal Opportunity Schools

As one of the newest program officers at the Raikes Foundation, I’m excited that one of my first projects will be to manage a new grant to a great organization called Equal Opportunity Schools (EOS).

EOS is a natural partner for the Raikes Foundation because it is an organization that shares our belief in the importance of not only encouraging students to take on new challenges, but also empowering them with the learning mindsets and skills that can help them conquer those challenges. 

Specifically, EOS works to increase the participation of low-income students and students of color in rigorous high school Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs. EOS estimates that each year more than 650,000 “missing” students who are ready to succeed in accelerated courses are overlooked and do not get the opportunity. By identifying and quickly moving those students into advanced courses, EOS aims to close high school and college graduation gaps for low-income students and students of color. Once in these courses, EOS supports both underrepresented students and their AP/IB teachers by implementing growth mindset and belonging interventions with each group.

Over the past two years, EOS has worked with 63 school districts in 11 states to move more than 10,000 students into advanced classes. The organization’s success has been noticed. Recently, a consortium of education, philanthropy and business leaders announced commitments to spend $100 million over three years to enroll 100,000 low income students and students of color in advanced courses. The initiative, known as “Lead Higher,” will be led by EOS.

We are providing a $500,000 grant to EOS to further increase their momentum and to learn more about how learning mindsets can help students persist and succeed in advanced courses. The grant has three primary objectives:

  1. Enable EOS to identify and enroll an additional 20,000 qualified students in advanced courses
  2. Help EOS develop and deliver interventions that help students cultivate learning mindsets and improve their sense of belonging in advanced courses
  3. Launch pilot projects to extend EOS’s work to middle schools

If the grant is successful, EOS will put more underrepresented students on a path to excel in high school and college. We will also get a better sense of the types of mindset and belonging messages that resonate with low income students and students of color who are tackling tougher classes than they may be used to and, ultimately, show that they and are just as capable of succeeding in AP/IB courses as their white and higher-income peers. And we will also have a better sense of how to identify and support underrepresented students as early as middle school.

Advanced-level courses shouldn’t be just for those students who know how to navigate the system. EOS is working to ensure that “missing” students are found and given the opportunity to excel. We look forward to following EOS’s progress and we will report back as the project proceeds.