Exploring the Opportunity Gap for Young Children from Birth to Age Eight

7/1/2020 – 6/30/2022


For nearly 20 years, American schools have been under increasing pressure to measure student achievement as a means of holding schools accountable for the quality of public education available to children. For many young children (birth to age eight) in the United States, unequal opportunity—both in and out of school—from the time they are born can have long-lasting impact on future academic outcomes and opportunities in life. More needs to be understood about what constitutes the opportunity gap and its relationship with the achievement gap and how these concepts should be defined and measured.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine will convene an ad hoc committee of 12-14 diverse experts to conduct a study and produce a consensus report that synthesizes the information gathered on the relationship between the opportunity gap (the potential causes and societal conditions that preclude equal access to high-quality educational opportunities) and achievement gap (the effect—subgroups of children who demonstrate lower performance than others and subgroups of children who do not achieve at a recognized level of performance) for young children from birth to age eight. The committee will make recommendations on how to improve conditions and promote success for children—at home, in communities, and in schools. The project will be under the direction of Natacha Blain, JD, PhD, Board Director, Board of Children, Youth and Families at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.