Selection criteria are based on a school’s documented success in implementing practices that distinguish the school as committed to closing opportunity gaps, as set forth in the Closing the Opportunity Gap book. Nominators should consider the following issues and questions with regard to schools that close the opportunity gap (click on each criterion's bullet point for information and link to rubric):


  • • Create and Maintain Healthy School Culture

    Schools where students face bullying, harassment or discrimination also hamper students’ ability to learn. Has the school taken steps to create a safe, welcoming school environment for all students, including the LGBTQ community? To what extent has the school used the resources of the community to support the academic, social and emotional well-being of students? How does the school include parents as partners in the development of school culture? (Please submit code of conduct, evidence of programs described.)

    Click here for Criterion 1 rubric

  • • Broaden and Enrich School Curriculum

    Does the curriculum include a range of subjects, activities and experiences that provide a full, high-quality education? Is it designed with the particular needs of the students in mind? Does it include a rich and diverse array of subjects, including social studies, science, art, music and physical education, available throughout the school year? (Please submit course guide and a 2015-2016 master schedule that lists course names and sections.) Click here for Criterion 2 rubric

  • • Provide More and Better Learning Time during the School Year and Summer

    Research shows that academic setbacks frequently occur for disadvantaged students who do not have sufficient access to after-school, in-school, and summer enrichment programs enjoyed by more affluent youth. Has the school engaged in initiatives to extend or enrich learning time, which, if they focus on broadening and deepening students’ knowledge and understanding of curricular topics, help to promote school success? (Please submit evidence of such as program description brochures or letters to parents.)

    Click here for Criterion 3 rubric

  • • End Disparities in Learning Opportunities Created by Tracking and Ability Grouping

    Research also shows that detracking reforms help increase student access to challenging curricular materials and high-quality instruction. Has the school taken steps toward universal access to accelerated and supported learning opportunities? Do all students have access to honors, IB and AP courses? Has the school abolished low- track classes with low expectations? To what extent do all groups of students participate in SAT, PSATs, ACTs and college counseling programs? (Please submit course guides, master schedule 2015-16 with course names and sections, and any flowcharts that explain course progressions.) Click here for Criterion 4 rubric

  • • Use a Variety of Assessments Designed to Respond to Student Needs

    Does the school design and use testing to help teachers understand how well their students are learning and to provide feedback that improves curriculum and teaching? Has the school culture resisted the current push to place standards-based accountability testing toward the center of teaching and learning? (Please submit evidence of assessments, description of teacher evaluation system, and evidence of collegial time spent on achieving these goals, such as: PLC or department notes, professional development materials, etc.) Click here for Criterion 5 rubric

  • • Reassessed Student Discipline Policies

    Students cannot access rich learning opportunities when they are excluded from school through suspensions and similar approaches to discipline. While suspensions are sometimes necessary and appropriate, these policies are particularly troubling when they exclude students of color or students receiving free- or reduced-price lunch at rates disproportionate to their involvement in wrongful behaviors. Does the school seek out positive, restorative and non-exclusionary approaches to discipline when appropriate? When students are suspended, are they provided access to appropriate instruction? (Please submit code of conduct and other documentation that explains the non-exclusionary policy, and how instruction is provided when an out of school suspension occurs. Please submit any document or letter that informs parents of right to appeal.) Click here for Criterion 6 rubric

  • • Support Teachers as Professionals

    Does the school have practices such as mentoring relationships between new teachers and experienced teachers, high- quality teacher induction programs, professional development drawing on school- level expertise, professional learning communities, collaboration among teachers, and relationships between teacher teams and social service support providers that serve students and families? Does the teacher evaluation system focus on identifying and addressing needs? Does professional learning develop a cadre of well-trained teachers who have a deep understanding of students’ diversity and of how inequality affects students and otherwise promotes instruction that is culturally relevant for them? Does the school support efforts to develop healthy and beneficial attitudes and beliefs among administrators, teachers, and school personnel (and students) regarding teaching, learning, and student ability? (Please submit documentation of professional development and mentoring activities for the 2015-16 year.) Click here for Criterion 7 rubric

  • • Meets the Needs of Students with Disabilities in an Environment that Balances Challenge and Support

    Has the school provided well-supported programs designed to support students with special needs in the least restrictive learning environment? Is inclusion is the norm, and does the school avoid inclusion classes that are low track classes filled with high-needs learners? Does the school provide supports for all modifications and provide layers of support for students with special needs, who are actively engaged in the social life of the school? (Please provide documentation of the continuum of special education services with the percentages of students receiving each service over the total school population. Exclude out of district students.) Click here for Criterion 8 rubric

  • • Address Key Health Issues

    Does the school step up to provide for unaddressed health issues, such as a lack of eye care, dental care and adequate nutrition— factors that impact academic success? (Please submit written descriptions to parents of the services provided, and how those descriptions are disseminated. Please delineate the staff or outside service providers (with contact information), who deliver the services or have a relationship with the school.) Click here for Criterion 9 rubric

  • • Build on the Strengths of Language Minority Students and Correctly Identify their Needs

    Failure to understand the whole child and the role (or lack of a role) of language can lead to misdiagnoses of children’s strengths and weaknesses. Does the school approach its English learners as emerging bilinguals, building on the language strengths they bring to school? Does the school communicate with language minority students to ensure that student needs beyond language are met? (Please provide documentation of programs that build on first language strengths, samples of correspondence in parents first language, as well as descriptions of social services designed to support ELLs.) Click here for Criterion 10 rubric

  • • Wise Use of Technology, and Access to Internet and Libraries

    Is technology used to supplement good classroom instruction or to supplant it? Online learning and blended learning are currently being marketed to policymakers and to schools as affordable ways to individualize, personalize and engage students in education. Some of these technologies have the potential to be useful instructional tools, but can the school demonstrate that they are being used wisely, thoughtfully and carefully? (Please provide specific examples of usage, not just global statements such as "all students have Ipads". Such evidence might include lesson plans, a link to a short video or flipped learning.) Click here for Criterion 11 rubric


To download our Selection Criteria Rubric for all criteria, click here.

Nominated schools MUST demonstrate:


Specific efforts towards reducing

the opportunity gap


Improvements in closing gaps

in student learning


An equitable enrollment of students with IEPs

(recognized schools will serve an equitable population

of students with special needs; as a rough guideline, the percentage of students with IEPs should fall no more than

2% points below their district's high school(s) average)


10% or more students eligible for free

or reduced priced meals


National Education Policy Center

School of Education

University of Colorado

Boulder, CO 80309-0249


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