Rising income inequality has been the subject of heated debate in 2014, and education is often proffered as a remedy. But do all American learners have access to the educational opportunities that lead to success in the 21st century?
In a new report, Putting Learning on the Map: Visualizing Opportunity in 21st Century Communities, author Lindsey Tepe argues for the greater use of community-level mapping to answer this question, exposing at the local level where resources are abundant and where there are disparities. The report spotlights examples of mapping initiatives that span the education spectrum—across early learning, public school, higher education, and informal learning environments such as computing centers and public libraries.
The report argues that while significant national attention has been directed at each of these components of the education system separately, few education policy leaders are considering this entire network of learning opportunities as a whole. Nor are they recognizing how much place and location continue to matter. But the increasing segregation of low-income families makes these issues inextricable at the community level.
With a series of short case studies, the report highlights how mapping can be a powerful first step for directing collective attention toward and investment in building interconnected networks of educational opportunities and closing gaps in their communities. Seeing communities with rich learning networks—as well as those with gaps and holes—highlights where inequalities exist and intersect.