Abington School District: Opportunties To Learn Initiative

By: | January 6, 2019
District Name: Abington School District
District State: Pennsylvania
District Website:

High standardized test scores had been a source of pride for Abington School District in Pennsylvania. But when No Child Left Behind required a deeper dive into the data, the district discovered a significant achievement gap for black students and special education students.

The district’s efforts to narrow the gap—known as the “Opportunities to Learn Initiative”—became a lesson in how equity promotes excellence for all students. It was even the subject of the book, Excellence Through Equity by Alan Blankstein and Pedro Nogeura.

The initiative started a series of principles that included:

More heterogeneously-grouped classes
Increased participation of minority students in honors and AP courses
Moving more special education students into regular education classes
Differentiated instruction
Developing strategies to engage parents in students’ learning.

Students are offered only two levels of each major course—college preparatory and honors/AP. This ensures all students receive rigorous instruction. The daily schedule has been adjusted to provide additional instruction to struggling students. And, all courses have been opened to students with IEPs.

The number of students taking AP exams increased from 168 in 2009 to 252 in 2013 and the number of AP exams taken rose from 321 in 2009 to 620 in 2013. Also, the achievement gap between black students and their classmates narrowed by 12 percent while the achievement gap for IEP students narrowed by 17 percent.

In recognition of the innovation and success of this initiative, Abington School District has been named a District of Distinction by District Administration. Abington was among 30 districts that were honored in the July 2015 round of Districts of Distinction, the magazine’s national recognition program.

“We are pleased to honor Abington as a District of Distinction,” says JD Solomon, editorial director at District Administration magazine. “Like all our honorees, Abington School District serves as a model for school leaders across the country.”