Opportunity Index

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The Opportunity Index, a BPS/BARI project designed to identify schools with higher concentrations of students in need of additional resources and supports to overcome opportunity gaps, will be featured as MetroLab Network’s Innovation of the Month for the month of May!


We have a sneak peak of the profile for you in advance of it’s release:



Could you please describe what the Boston Public School Opportunity Index is? Who is involved in this project?

The Opportunity Index (OI) is a place-based metric that captures inequities in academic achievement that arise from factors that are outside of the control of schools that Boston Public Schools (BPS) and the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI) constructed to inform funding and programming. In addition to considering factors that are traditionally used in funding decisions, like special education status and eligibility for free-or-reduced-price lunch, the OI is distinctive in that it takes seriously the consequences of neighborhood effects (i.e., the impacts of the events and conditions in one’s residential context) for academic achievement. For this reason, elements like neighborhood crime, socioeconomic status, and the academic attainment of local adults contribute to the calculation of the OI. The OI is then used to evaluate not only the level of opportunity for students at all schools in the district, but also the sources of that opportunity, giving principals and headmasters the flexibility to pursue the implement resources and programs that will best support the specific needs of their students.


How did your partnership with BPS inform the project from the start? Was the project an effort in co-creation?

BPS approached us in summer 2016 as part of a broader “listening tour” as they sought expert advice on the methodological and conceptual considerations that would need to go into the construction of an Opportunity Index. They built a pilot version on their own based on those conversations that they announced at our annual conference in spring 2017. This led to sufficient internal buy-in that they decided to undertake the same project in a more methodologically rigorous manner, and they invited us to partner with them in this effort. From there, it was thoroughly an effort in co-creation, with a natural cycle in which joint brainstorming generated a set of data-based steps that we then executed on, followed by discussion of the results and how they would guide next steps. The project was guided primarily by BPS’ desire for an OI that accounted for both individual- and neighborhood-level factors that impact student academic achievement. BARI’s investment was in the opportunity to help them produce this cutting-edge tool and in the novel discoveries that might arise in that process.


Graph showing how the residential neighborhoods of a single elementary school’s students compare to other schools on the place-based components of OI.



To read more about the development and implementation of the Opportunity Index, click here.

Published On: July 9, 2018