Equity in education has been a sought-after goal for decades—tied to the promise of public education that every child succeeds in school and life. Unfortunately, the practice of equity in education has been challenging to achieve and maintain, with many strategies struggling for support and action. Equity in education remains a topic for much discussion and debate.
As a leading advocate for public education, the National School Boards Association issued this statement on equity. "Public schools should provide equitable access and ensure that all students have the knowledge and skills to succeed as contributing members of a rapidly changing global society regardless of factors such as race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, English proficiency, immigration status, socioeconomic status, or disability."
While a broad statement, it serves as the foundation for all equity discussions and debates.
EdisonLearning is an active participant in that discussion and the quest for equity in education. EdisonLearning's Chief Executive Officer, Thom Jackson, believes equity goes beyond race and is really about class and the zip codes students, families, and communities reside. As part of its Equity Everywhere initiative, EdisonLearning provides solutions to ensure equity in education becomes a reality for all students regardless of zip code.
Thom suggests that the foundation of equity can be simplified into three pillars; scholastic, structural, and institutional equity.
Pillar 1: Scholastic Equity
Scholastic equity requires that students receive the academic support needed to address specific circumstances and issues that they must deal with every day. These issues can be barriers such as poverty and homelessness, or family circumstances, like language, culture and traditions of students' upbringing. Achieving scholastic equity requires teachers to understand students' experiences and circumstances - regardless of race, ethnicity, and class - to engage students and provide the best learning environment. It requires meeting students where they are.
For example, students' family culture can influence whether they tend to be visual learners vs. auditory learners vs. tactile learners. It can also affect how parents view education, the vocabulary used and the difficulties that may create for students even to attend classes.
Pillar 2: Structural Equity
Structural equity requires examining everything that impacts student learning - understanding that many are outside an academic classroom. For example, the quality of school transportation or the condition of a school building can affect how students feel about coming to school and, ultimately, their desire to learn and how they can learn. The quality of teachers, textbooks and technology in a school is another example of things that impact structural equity. Structural inequities occur in many rural communities, often through old buildings and a lack of technology in the classrooms and at home.
The need for structural equity was brought even more pressingly to the forefront during the pandemic. As districts and schools were forced to pivot classrooms to online or blended learning, many students did not have internet access in their homes. Even when every student was given a chromebook or laptop computer to use at home, it didn't mean all students would be able to participate in online classes. Limited transportation options to get to school in some areas is another growing concern to achieving structural equity.
Pillar 3: Institutional Equity
Institutional equity is guided by this question: "How does the institution of education reflect the diversity of the students' economic and ethnic circumstances that they find themselves in?" It challenges district and school administrators to create a vision for their community designed to help all students become their best.
For example, the lack of resources that reflect cultural consistency has been a source of inequity for some time, even with research showing that when students see themselves in their academic content and their interactions at school, they are more engaged in learning.
Institutional equity is challenged in those districts that are comprised of distinct diverse groups of students and families, with one group more privileged than the other. This type of community requires building a community with institutional equity to understand students' backgrounds recognizing students have different needs and providing individual resources based on those needs.
If you or anyone has ideas or thoughts equity in education visit: www.edisonlearning.com/equity-everywhere or join the discussion on Twitter @Edisonlearning and reference #EquityEverywhere.
Be sure to listen to the EdisonLearning’s Equity Everywhere podcast series. Where a variety of K-12 practitioners and experts engage in critical, meaningful, comprehensive conversations about equity in education―what are the key factors, variables, objectives, and considerations for the education system to acknowledge and address? Together, podcast participants highlight, amplify, and refine best practices and solutions for ensuring equity everywhere.