About the Index

+ What is the Education Equality Index?

The Education Equality Index (EEI) is the first comparative national measure of low-income student performance at the school and city level, accounting for differences in state exams and the percentage of low-income students served. The EEI provides a snapshot of how students from low-income families at a given school or city are performing compared to other students from low-income families and compared to all students in the country. The EEI is groundbreaking in its breadth (national), depth (school-level), and focus on the performance of students from low-income families.

The EEI includes data for 45 states and over 55,000 schools over a 5-year period, from the 2010-11 school year to the 2014-15 school year. Data is collected directly from state departments of education and combined with additional data from the U.S. Department of Education.

We are missing data that was not fully reported to states from schools, or from states that didn’t provide it despite a legal requirement to do so, which has resulted in the exclusion of certain cities and schools in the EEI. We strongly call for better reporting at the school and state level. Parents, educators & policymakers have a right to know how our students from low-income families are performing and this data should be transparent & accessible.

+ Why was the Education Equality Index created?

The Education Equality Index was created to measure the performance of students from low-income families in a way that can be compared across state lines. The ultimate goal is to identify and then seek to learn from schools and cities in which students from low-income families are making the most progress. We believe the EEI provides a foundation for significant future research to better understand the factors contributing to student achievement levels at these schools and cities.

+ How is the Education Equality Index different from other measures?

Focus on students from low-income communities
The EEI focuses exclusively on how well students from low-income families are performing in schools and cities nationwide. Many other measures evaluate the performance, or growth, of all students in a school, and thus a school can still be highly rated if affluent students perform well, even if low-income students do not perform well at that same school.

National comparisons
Using the EEI, a school in California can be compared to a school in Texas. A city in Arizona can be compared to a city in Ohio. EEI Scores are adjusted using a nationally administered, well-respected assessment called the National Assessment of Academic Progress (NAEP) that makes comparison across state lines possible. While it is impossible to do an apples-to-apples comparison, we use an independently-validated methodology to enable meaningful comparisons despite the lack of common state standards and assessments.

Two Distinct Outputs
The EEI provides two unique ways of looking at nationally-comparable data on FRL student performance. First, we show the distribution of FRL students in city based upon how their performance compares to other FRL and non-FRL students nationally. Second, the EEI Score rolls up a lot of information into one number that also takes into account the concentration of poverty within that school or city and can be used to make clear comparisons and track progress over time.

Amount of data
The EEI dataset is one of the largest containing proficiency data at the grade/subject level specifically focused on students from low-income families. The EEI includes student performance data collected directly from state departments of education for 45 states and over 55,000 schools over a 5-year period, from the 2010-11 school year to the 2014-15 school year.

Please contact ldauter@greatschools.org to request access to the full dataset for research purposes.

+ How can the Education Equality Index fairly compare schools and cities?

The EEI relies on two key adjustments that make it possible to fairly compare schools and cities. The first makes state assessment data comparable by adjusting proficiency rates based on the discrepancy between how well low-income students performed on The National Assessment of Academic Progress (NAEP) in each state compared to how well low-income students performed on their own state exam.

The second adjustment addresses the relationship between low-income student performance and the concentration of low-income students at a school by giving an adjustment at the school level based on the percentage of low-income students at that school. Schools with below-average FRL concentration receive an adjustment down, and schools with an above-average FRL concentration receive an adjustment up, based on how far below or above the average they are.

+ Who created the Education Equality Index?

The Education Equality Index was created by Education Cities and GreatSchools, and funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

Education Cities is a nonprofit network of 30 city-based organizations in 25 cities working to dramatically increase the number of great public schools across the country. Our members are nonprofit organizations that create and coordinate ecosystems that foster the growth of high-quality public schools in their respective cities. We build the capacity of our network members to invest in the growth of great schools, recruit and support talented teachers and principals, engage their communities and advance pro-children policies.

GreatSchools is the leading national nonprofit empowering parents to unlock educational opportunities for their child. GreatSchools’ trusted ratings and school information help parents find the right school for their family and improve schools in their communities. The thousands of articles, tips and interactive tools help parents support their child’s learning and wellbeing everyday. Families, community leaders and policymakers turn to GreatSchools for the school information they need to guide children to great futures.

The Michael & Susan Dell Foundation is dedicated to improving the lives of children living in urban poverty around the world. Headquartered in Austin, TX with satellite offices in New Delhi, India and Cape Town, South Africa, the Dell family foundation funds programs that foster high-quality public education and childhood wellness, and improve the economic stability of families living in poverty. The foundation has committed more than $1.2 billion to global children’s issues and community initiatives to date.

+ How is the EEI different this year?

In 2016 we conducted an unprecedented data collection and created the first EEI methodology. In 2017 we built on that work by:

  • Creating a new methodology with input from an esteemed Technical Advisory Panel, including a NAEP adjustment for national comparability
  • Including two outputs: Low-Income Achievement Categories and EEI Scores
  • Releasing data for more cities
  • Releasing school-level scores
  • Making raw data available for download

Interpreting the Data

+ How is the Education Equality Index Score calculated?

For a short step-by-step description, visit the Methodology page. For a more technical description, download the Report and read the section titled The Education Equality Index.

+ What does the Education Equality Index Score mean?

The EEI is a nationally comparable measure of state assessment performance of students from low-income families, adjusted for concentrated poverty. Scores range from 0 to 100 with a higher score representing better low-income student performance compared to low-income students in other schools and cities nationally. Each city score is an aggregate measure of low-income student results at the grade-subject level, weighted by number of students tested.

An EEI Score of 50 means that the school or city is at the national average in terms of its performance for FRL students, with scores above 50 being higher than the national average and scores below 50 being below the national average.

Increases in EEI Score over time signify that a school or city has improved its relative position within the national distribution across years.

Click here to learn more about EEI Categories and Low-Income Achievement Categories.

+ What does my city or school’s Education Equality Index category mean?

Your EEI Category tells you how students from low-income families are performing in your school or city relative to FRL students in other schools and cities across the country. We have provided categories to help put EEI Scores into context:

  • Far above average > 90 (1% of schools nationally)
  • Above average > 70 (11% of schools nationally)
  • Average 30-70 (75% of schools nationally)
  • Below average < 30 (12% of schools nationally)
  • Far below average < 10 (1% schools nationally)
+ What does my school’s Low-Income Achievement Category mean?

Your school’s Low-Income Achievement Category tells you how well your students from low-income families are performing compared to ALL other students in the country – both low-income and non-low-income.

  • Green – The average low-income student in this school or city is exceeding the national average performance for non-low-income students. (4% of schools nationally)
  • Yellow – The average low-income student in this school or city is performing above the average of all students nationally but below the national average for non-low-income students (19% of schools nationally)
  • Orange – The average low-income student in this school or city is performing above the national average for low-income students, but below the average of all students nationally (44% of schools nationally)
  • Red – The average low-income student in this school or city is performing below the average of all low-income students nationally (34% of schools nationally)
+ Why does data appear for my school in some places on the website and not others?

The most complete set of information on the website is the School Score table. Information may be missing from other sections due to the following reasons:

  • Some cities do not receive an EEI score due to insufficient data, but schools in that city still receive a score if they have sufficient data.
  • The map relies on accurate latitude and longitude coordinates, which are reported incorrectly or not at all for some schools.
  • Scatterplots rely on exact FRL percentages for a school. When school FRL percentages are not reported, we use estimates to calculate the EEI score, but estimates don’t plot correctly for the scatterplots.

About the Data

+ How do you classify “students from low-income families?”

The Education Equality Index relies on the performance of students in every classroom that receive free or reduced price lunch (FRL) through the National School Lunch Program.

To receive a free or reduced price meal, households must meet income eligibility requirements. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced price meals.

Children in families that receive food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are automatically eligible for free school meals. Families who receive commodity assistance through food distribution programs in American Indian tribal areas are also automatically eligible for free meals.

+ Why can't I see data for my city?

If data is not available for your city, it is for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Your state’s education agency did not provide complete 2015 proficiency data for FRL students to GreatSchools.
  • Your city is not one of the 300 largest cities by school-aged population.
  • We have excluded cities where we were only able to score less than 75% of schools. Reasons schools are excluded are detailed here.
+ Why can’t I see data for my school?

Your school may not be listed for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. Test scores that are not associated with a grade level (e.g. End-of-Course exams) are not included in the EEI.
    • We can’t associate non-grade-level tests with a NAEP adjustment. If your high school gives only end-of-course exams, we can’t calculate an EEI Score.
  2. If a school’s FRL performance data is not reliable due to adoption of the Community Eligibility Option within the National School Lunch Program.
    • The data could be including non-FRL students within the FRL data so we can’t calculate an EEI score.
  3. If the state did not report “number tested” with the state test AND there is a missing “percent FRL” in the NCES demographics file for that year.
    • We can’t perform a FRL adjustment to calculate an EEI Score.
  4. If we didn’t receive FRL performance data for that school in that year.
+ Why can't I see data for my school district/ LEA?

The Education Equality Index focuses on cities rather than school districts for several reasons. First, we want to encourage city leaders to take responsibility for all students in a city, regardless of whether they attend district or charter schools authorized by a variety of entities. Second, some school districts cross multiple cities, and some cities include multiple school districts, so we decided for consistency to use city boundaries for this release.

If you would like to analyze results for a school district/LEA rather than a city, please contact ldauter@greatschools.org.

+ What is the Community Eligibility Option and how does it affect EEI Scores?

The Community Eligibility Option (CEO) attempts to reduce administrative burdens on schools and districts by allowing schools, groups of schools, or local education agencies with more than 40% of students qualifying for “direct certification” of FRL eligibility to provide free meals to their entire student body, and to cease reporting data disaggregated by FRL eligibility. This means that for schools reaching the 40% threshold for application under the CEO, on paper they may look as though their entire student body is composed of low-income students. However, schools that use CEO still report FRL performance on state assessments in many, but not all, cases.

In order to deal with complications introduced by CEO, we created a set of rules for exclusion of suspicious results. First, we check to see if it was possible for a school to have applied to the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) via the CEO using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) on the rollout of the CEO across states over time. Then we check to see if the FRL eligibility at a school increased more than .5 standard deviations more than the mean year-over-year increase in FRL eligibility across the state, and that it increased to over 90% FRL. If all of these conditions are met, the data for that school-year is flagged and data from that school is not used for that year and subsequent years. This flag is removed only if the NCES reports this school as having applied to the NSLP under a method other than the CEO. Taking this approach, around 4% of school-year observations nationally were flagged for removal.

This is a significant concern that deserves attention and policy solutions; the provision of affordable meals for children should not impede our ability to measure the educational progress of students in poverty. We encourage all schools and districts opting in to the CEO to continue reporting data disaggregated by FRL-eligibility, and hope to see this number increase over time.

+ What data are you using to calculate your scores?

Education Equality Index Scores are calculated using proficiency data from annual state assessments taken by students in math and reading across all grades tested. Our dataset includes proficiency data for students eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL), all students, and, in many cases, non-FRL students. All proficiency data was provided to GreatSchools by state education agencies.

The NAEP adjustment relies on 2015 math and reading proficiency rates on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) at the state/subgroup/grade level. These data are publicly available on the Nation’s Report Card website.

School and district demographic data including percentage of FRL students in each school, race/ethnicity breakdowns, student enrollment, and school addresses come from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) database.

We used U.S. Census data from the 2015 American Community Survey (ACS) for city populations. School-aged population figures were estimated using 2015 ACS city populations and 2010 U.S. Census figures for populations under age 18 and populations under age 5.

+ Is the Education Equality Index a quality measure?

No, the EEI is not a stand-alone or absolute school quality measure. In developing the EEI, we had a very specific goal: identify schools and cities across the country with the highest performance for students from low-income families. Because we were focused on national-comparability, we limited our data to that which is broadly available across states. This is meant to complement, but not replace, other school quality measures that include multiple factors, such as student growth rates.

+ Why does the Education Equality Index rely solely on state assessment data?

Unfortunately, it is impossible to find and gather additional comprehensive data that focuses on students from low-income families from every state’s department of education and that is nationally comparable. We wish that college and career readiness measures were available nationally for low-income students and consistent enough to compare across states. We strongly believe in using the data that is available and hope the EEI will answer important questions about how low-income students are performing in schools and cities across the U.S.

More Questions?

For more information, contact Carrie Douglass at (541) 550-0800 or carrie@educationcities.org.