The National Education Equity Lab: Closing the Opportunity Gap

The National Education Equity Lab: Closing the Opportunity Gap

Ariel Bedford is the Chief Academic and Impact Officer of the National Education Equity Lab. Photo by Caleb Bourque.

“Talent is evenly distributed. Opportunity is not.” 

Founded in 2019 by Leslie Cornfeld, the National Education Equity Lab is a national education nonprofit that focuses on providing college credit-bearing courses to high school students in historically underserved communities. “When I think about who we are, what we do, and what we believe, I think a lot about our mantra, which is that talent is evenly distributed. Opportunity is not,” says Ariel Bedford, a former classroom teacher and the Chief Academic and Impact Officer of the National Education Equity Lab. 

At the National Education Equity Lab, students are called scholars. “We are referring to our students as the scholars that we know they are,” Ariel says. “It is really important to make sure that our scholars know their potential and that we work to change and shift their mindsets,” Ariel says. “It is showing and demonstrating to our scholars that by successfully completing college credit-bearing courses while in high school, they are college and career-ready.” As part of the Ed Equity Lab’s model, scholars are given personal technologies, like laptops and hotspots to reduce barriers to accessing coursework, and are provided with a network of high school classroom co-teachers, university teaching fellows, professors from top colleges and universities, and like-minded organizations that will help them succeed in their courses and get them to and through college.

Scholars and their teachers in Los Angeles, California, celebrate the successful completion of Harvard’s Poetry in America course. Photo courtesy of the National Education Equity Lab.

Ed Equity Lab aspires to support scholars in every Title I high school in the country. Ed Equity Lab is in over 180 Title I high schools across over 90 districts in over 25 states, from New York and Los Angeles to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Gallup, New Mexico. In the 2021-2022 school year, Ed Equity Lab partnered with 12 universities that included Princeton University, the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown University, Howard University, and Stanford University. On a smaller scale, continuing to give added support to their co-teachers is a priority. The idea is to elevate the teaching profession. 

Data provided by Ed Equity Lab states that 84% of scholars completing their College-in-High School course passed and earned free college credits and that 98% of teachers reported increased college readiness and confidence among their scholars. All participating pilot districts were interested in providing future course offerings, and over 50% of current school partners offer two or more College-in-High School courses, cultivating a college-going culture at high schools nationwide.

Erica Green (New York Times journalist), Donovan Blount (Ed Equity Lab scholar alumni), Sammar Parham (Ed Equity Lab scholar alumni), Michaell Santos (Ed Equity Lab scholar alumni) at their Student Voices: Solving the College Access Gap panel, live at SXSW EDU 2022.

Coming from a single-parent home with a mother who sacrificed so much, and as an education advocate in her adult life, Ariel Bedford understands the importance of having someone in your corner. “At the end of the day, we really want to make sure that equity, access, and opportunity are at the heart of everything that we do,” Ariel says. “That is top of mind for all of our state, district, and school partners. At the National Education Equity Lab, we believe in the transformative power of a high-quality education, and this national education justice effort helps to ensure social and economic mobility for all of our scholars.” 

To learn more about how you can support The National Education Equity Lab, visit their website.