How one non-profit helps schools identify students for advanced coursework and remove barriers to access


For schools working with Equal Opportunity Schools, every staff member becomes an advocate for ensuring all students have access to advanced courses.

The non-profit organization’s work in a school starts with a student survey posing the most basic question – who is an adult in the building you trust. Those adults are then tapped to help coach, support, and encourage students identified for advanced coursework, often those who would otherwise go overlooked.

The goal of the national nonprofit organization is to work with schools to remove the barriers to access that all too often keep students of color and other historically underserved groups from participating in advanced coursework. In its eighth year, it is now working with 370 high schools across the country, including a number in New York City, Buffalo, and Tarrytown.

“We have developed a model to work with school districts to erase inequities in access and success in advanced academic coursework,” said Sasha Rabkin, the organization’s chief strategy officer.

The work uses data about enrollment and student outcomes, along with teacher and student surveys, to help schools identify students in underrepresented populations who could succeed in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses and to increase understanding amongst staff of what EOS calls “the equity eco-system.”

The organization also assigns a Partnership Director to each school that offers coaching and support with data analytics and helping schools identify – and remove – barriers to enrollment.“Students are literally right across the hall from the courses they should be in, and most of them will be successful,” Rabkin said.