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date: 15 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Legal directives aimed at schools exist within a complex societal system. Consequently, learning inequalities arise because of opportunity gaps outside of school, not just inside of school. This reality carries sharp implications for those designing litigation and legislation hoping to drive reforms or impose remedies. As this chapter illustrates, a school’s capacity to comply with a mandate and to yield desired outcomes often depends on factors well beyond the control of the school’s leaders and educators. Consequently, legislation and litigation are often ineffective in driving educational equity as they fail to account for external factors. This chapter first presents research showing that variation in outcomes for children in different schools is determined more by outside-of-school inequalities than by differences in what happens inside of schools. Second, it dives deeply into the question of how opportunity gaps arise outside of school. Third, it examines how education laws have focused on efforts directed narrowly at schools. Finally, the chapter considers how litigation might respond to the importance of nonschool factors in driving opportunity gaps.

Keywords: Opportunity gaps, Nonschool factors, Education reform, Socioeconomic inequality, Health and education, Food security and education, Housing instability and education, Immigration status and education, School desegregation, Testing-based accountability

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