Closing the Opportunity Gap

Education has a profound impact on a child’s life. A positive school experience can improve career prospects, prepare a child for active civic life, and strengthen the vitality of our communities and our democracy.

All Children Deserve the Opportunity to Reach Their Potential

As a nation, we believe in equal opportunity. Yet, every child is not afforded the same life chances. Children who grow up in poverty have less access than their more affluent peers to safe neighborhoods, quality after-school programs and first-rate schools. These children are disproportionately African American, Latino and English language learners.

This “opportunity gap” can lead to unequal outcomes as early as kindergarten.

graph showing opportunity gap growing between kindergarten and fifth grade


Children from low-income communities are already 12 to 14 months behind in language and pre-reading skills when they start kindergarten.

Third Grade

By the time they reach third grade, these children are between 2 and 2.5 years behind their more affluent peers in reading and math skills.

Fifth Grade

The opportunity gap continues to grow over time, with students falling 2.5 to 3 years behind by fifth grade.

53% pie chart  

Of California fourth graders who received free or subsidized lunches, only 53 percent could read at grade level in 2013.

  83% pie chart  

compared to 83 percent for children who were not from economically disadvantaged families.

Education Creates Opportunity

Great schools have the power to close the opportunity gap and raise the bar for all students, so every child has a fair shot at success.

Photo of young children playing Photo of teacher and student Photo of child reading Photo of high school graduates

Young children

who participate in high quality preschool are ready to succeed in school.


with well-trained teachers perform at grade level in the early grades.

Proficient readers

in third grade are more likely to graduate high school.

High school graduates

have better life opportunities including college admission and career choices.

San Francisco Schools Lead the Way

San Francisco is known for its ground breaking innovation, and yet the gap between wealthy and poor San Franciscans is growing faster than in any other city in the country.

While San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is the highest-performing large urban district in California, many students are failing. The district has some of the largest achievement gaps in the state, with race and family income having significant influence on a student’s achievement.

Guided by the district’s new Vision 2025, school leaders have committed to closing the opportunity gap in San Francisco and are working together in new ways to transform the school system. Learn More

How We'll Get There: Creating a Model for the Nation

The Haas, Jr. Fund is betting on great schools in San Francisco, and we believe our school district will be a model for the nation. We applaud SFUSD and other local partners in their collaborative effort to radically improve student achievement and graduate all children ready for college, career and civic life in the 21st century.

Specifically, we support their vision and provide funding to –

  • Integrate high quality early learning into the district so all children are reading at grade level by fourth grade. To align and strengthen curriculum and instruction in the critical early years, SFUSD has established an Early Education Department and a PK-3rd Initiative. The Haas, Jr. Fund supports dual language instruction, the use of student data to tailor classroom instruction and joint professional development for PreK-3rd principals and teachers, including coaching and professional learning circles.
  • Support district leaders in “leading for change” and help transform teaching and learning across the district. Strong leadership at all levels is critical to breaking new ground in the way education is delivered. We invest in supporting effective leaders in the central office, school board and schools, so they can motivate lasting change and create an organizational culture of learning and accountability to drive reforms. The Haas, Jr. Fund also supports strategic communications and planning to support the change process.
  • Engage families and communities as essential partners. Recognizing that families and communities play vital roles in supporting success for all children, SFUSD has embraced community schools as a central strategy. The Haas, Jr. Fund invests in the coordination between the school, parents and the community and the knitting together of the supports and services that students need to succeed. We helped launch the San Francisco Beacon Centers, which make up five of the district’s 13 community schools incubators.
  • Build school-to-college connections so all youth are ready to attend and successfully complete college. (This area of work is under review.) The Haas, Jr. Fund is supporting policy analysis, advocacy and partnership strategies to accelerate student attainment of certificates or degrees, particularly at City College of San Francisco.

We are also long-time supporters of a special initiative in education equity:

photo of young girl smiling and holding worksheet and pencil

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." -Nelson Mandela




Closing the Achievement Gap

By creating opportunities for the most vulnerable students in our communities, we can close the achievement gap and increase the chances for success in life.