Opportunity to Learn
Opportunity to learn refers to equitable conditions or circumstances within the school or classroom that promote learning for all students. It includes the provision of curricula, learning materials, facilities, teachers, and instructional experiences that enable students to achieve high standards. This term also relates to the absence of barriers that prevent learning.
Stevens (1993) notes: "Opportunity to learn the designated curriculum for a grade level or age group is a major equity issue for students who are at risk of not developing academically to their fullest potential" (p. 1). She emphasizes the teacher's role in determining opportunity to learn by "implementing instructional models and programs that will promote access to learning for poor and minority students" (p. 3). (For further information on the relationship between assessment and instruction, refer to the Critical Issue "Integrating Assessment and Instruction in Ways That Support Learning.")
In connection with assessment, Winfield (1987) notes that opportunity to learn relates to "the provision of adequate and timely instruction of specific content and skills prior to taking a test" (p. 438). She adds that opportunity to learn may be measured by "time spent in reviewing, practicing, or applying a particular concept or by the amount and depth of content covered with particular groups of students" (p. 439).
Gordon (1992) adds: "It is immoral to begin by measuring outcomes before we have seriously engaged the equitable and sufficient distribution of inputs--that is, opportunities and resources essential to the development of intellect and competence" (p. 2).
When students are tested with high-stakes assessments, evidence must be provided that the students have had adequate opportunity to learn the material on which they are being tested. Recent legislative proposals have called for the development of opportunity-to-learn standards that coincide with content standards and performance standards.
For further information, refer to the following resources: