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Harnessing the Power of Equity in Education


“Equality is leaving the door open for anyone who has the means to approach it; equity is ensuring there is a pathway to that door for those who need it.” - Caroline Belden (The Inclusion Solution)


Education is key to unlocking limitless potential, transforming individuals from mere learners into knowledgeable, skilled, and confident contributors to society. Sadly, this crucial tool for social and economic advancement is not equally accessible to all. The disparity gap in education is a pervasive and persistent challenge, plaguing millions of students, particularly those who come from low-income families or are students of color.

In order to create a more equitable and just educational system, we must acknowledge and confront the disparities that exist in schools and prioritize equity for all students. We can ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential and make a meaningful impact in the world.

Let’s begin with the disparity gap in education.

The disparity gap in education refers to unequal educational resources, opportunities, and outcomes among different social, economic, and demographic groups. This insidious issue manifests in numerous ways, from funding disparities for schools serving diverse populations to unequal access to exceptional teachers and top-notch educational resources. The result is a stark contrast in educational attainment and post-secondary opportunities, perpetuating the cycle of inequality. The disparity gap in education is a call to action, a challenge we must rise to ensure that every student has the chance to reach their full potential.

Knowing the difference between equality & equity is an important step.

Equality and equity are essential concepts in education. Equality in schools is generic and group-focused, intending to receive equal treatment or resources. Equity in schools is adaptable, individual-focused, and fair (Waterford.org). In essence, equality aims for sameness, while equity aims for fairness.

More specifically, equality refers to treating all students the same, regardless of their background or circumstances. This means that all students receive the same resources, opportunities, and outcomes. The idea behind equality is that everyone starts from the same point and is on equal footing.

Equity, however, refers to providing students with what they need to succeed. Equity means acknowledging and addressing the barriers and challenges that different students face and taking into account each student's unique needs and circumstances. Then, that knowledge provides them with the support and resources they need to overcome obstacles and reach their full potential.

Schools should be focused and driven by equity, not equality.


Equality advocates for treating all students equally and falls short of creating a fair and equitable education system. This approach ignores each student's unique circumstances and barriers to success. Moreover, it assumes that all students start from the same point, which has led to disparities in education outcomes. Some examples of inequalities can be seen through standardized tests that fail to account for cultural, linguistic, and traumatic differences; the one-size-fits-all curricula that disregard the needs of diverse student populations; English language learners who face inadequate support; and students from disadvantaged backgrounds who lack access to advanced courses and technology.

Jonathan Kozol's 1991 book "Savage Inequalities" shed light on the disparities in the education system, exposing the contrast between predominantly minority schools in urban areas and well-funded schools in suburban neighborhoods. Despite some progress in addressing these disparities, such as New Jersey's recognition of multilingual students through the Seal of Biliteracy, efforts to improve cultural responsiveness in teaching, teacher diversity and quality, and comprehensive support at certain schools, much work remains to be done in creating a more equitable education system for all students. The persistent disparity gap in education is a reminder that the pursuit of educational equity is far from over, and much more work remains to be done to create a more just and equitable education system for all students.


Teachers can help in this critical work in equity.

To foster equity in education, it's essential to understand and address the unique needs of each student. Teachers play a crucial role in creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment where every student feels valued and has the opportunity to succeed. Concrete steps can be taken to address this challenge and foster equity in education.


1️⃣Meet students where they are.

Every student comes to the classroom with their own set of experiences, needs, and backgrounds. To promote equity, teachers must recognize these differences and adjust their teaching style to meet each student's individual needs. A variety of teaching strategies, such as hands-on activities, small-group instruction, and technology, can be used to engage all students. Additionally, teachers can create a developmentally appropriate practice that provides resources and support for each student to achieve their next skill level. Above all, teachers should strive to build positive relationships with their students and create a supportive classroom environment where students feel valued and respected.


2️⃣Emphasize a growth mindset and related values.

Teaching students to embrace challenges, persist through difficulties, and believe in their ability to succeed can impact their success in the classroom. Engaging students to ask questions, engage in discussions, and think about the world around them can also promote a growth mindset. Modeling these values and using language that reflects them in the classroom sends a powerful message to students and encourages them to treat others kindly and respectfully.


3️⃣Create equity-focused lessons.

The curriculum should be inclusive and reflect all students' diverse experiences and perspectives. Teachers can incorporate examples that show different perspectives and cultures, encourage critical thinking, and promote respectful conversations about diversity, equity, and social justice. Providing opportunities for students to collaborate and work together also fosters a sense of belonging.

Now it's time to implement!

By taking concrete actions to promote equity in the classroom, teachers have the power to shape a more just and equitable future for all students. From building solid relationships and emphasizing a growth mindset to incorporating diverse perspectives in lessons and fostering a supportive community, these efforts will ripple out and make a lasting difference in the lives of our students. We must seize this opportunity, break down the barriers that have held too many students back, and give all children a chance to reach their full potential. Let us rise to this challenge together and build a brighter future for all.

So are you ready to do this important work? We welcome you to implement these simple strategies. If you or your school would like a more in-depth plan or support in promoting equity in your school, you may connect with us at https://www.lctelearning.com, call us at (305) 209-0003, or send us an email at info@lctearning.com.

References

Why understanding equity vs equality in schools can help you create an inclusive classroom (2021) Waterford.org. Available at: https://www.waterford.org/education/equity-vs-equality-in-education/ (Accessed: October 22, 2022).

Fitzgerald, D. (2022) Using educational data to address equity, Data Quality Campaign. Available at: https://dataqualitycampaign.org/our-work/policy-areas/data-for-equity/ (Accessed: October 22, 2022).

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