equity in education
May 06 2021

A Practical Guide to Equity in Education

Positive Action Staff
Every student in my classroom deserves an equal chance despite their differences, what can I do to ensure that?…

Simple; equity in education.

Now you’re thinking, “How is equity possible when all too often, our education systems reinforce the same inequalities they were designed to overcome?”

It’s possible because you exist. Because you can make a positive impact at a student-level where it matters most.

Truth is, actively creating opportunities for equity in education helps remove barriers so every boy and girl can succeed.

Let’s dig deeper into what educational equity is and what educators can do to improve equity in the classrooms.

“What I love most about Positive Action is the way it pertains to the real issues students face in today's world!” — Lori Kessinge, 5th Grade Teacher, Critzer Elementary School, Virginia

What Does Equity Mean in Education?

Equity in education is the process of reforming practices, policies, and procedures at the school and district levels to support academic fairness and inclusion.

This ensures every child has everything they need to be successful, like resources, teachers, and interventions.

Equity and Equality

Equality is providing the same opportunities to all students

Equity is giving specific resources and support to disadvantaged students to bring them up to the same opportunity level as their peers

Equity calls for understanding the unique challenges faced by individual students and providing additional structures that help them overcome those barriers.

For instance, think of administering a math test. Since every student has their pen, paper, and a calculator, they’re all equal, right?

Yes. But not equitable.

Here’s how you solve this challenge by providing targeted support:

  • Help ESL (English as a Second Language) students understand instructions in an unfamiliar language

  • Provide text-to-speech technology for visually impaired students

  • Allocate a quiet space for students with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) to complete the assignment

When you cater to these physical abilities, language skills, and other needs, your challenged students can compete with their peers at the same level.

Why Is Equity in Education Important?

Equity in education goes beyond the idea that equity is morally right because it:

Betters Our Society

The primary goal of public schools in the U.S. isn't only to prepare students for college and lucrative careers but to instill values that make them better citizens.

Additionally, students who attend economically and racially diverse schools express fewer discriminatory attitudes because they learn to see students from various backgrounds as their peers.

These tolerant environments promote:

  • Creativity
  • Motivation
  • Deeper learning
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving skills

Integrated Schools Aid in the Reduction of Racial and Economic Achievement Gaps

In the 1970s and 80s, the height of school desegregation, the racial achievement gap in K–12 education closed more rapidly than it has overall in the decades that followed.

This is because many desegregation policies were dismantled.

More recently, something major happened when black and Latino students became less likely to be stuck in high-poverty school environments:

They had smaller achievement gaps with white students on the 2007 National Centre for Education Statistics 2007 Report Card.

In fact, one study showed that switching to complete integration in a district can reduce the current SAT score disparity by as much as one-quarter.

Encouraging, right?

Now let’s take a look at what equity in education looks like in the classroom.

What Does Equity in Education Look Like?

Equity in school occurs in two steps:

  1. Start by acknowledging some students arrive at school in need of more academic and socio-emotional support than others

  2. Ensure students have access to high-quality education

Here are two ways you can start creating more equity as an educator:

Create an Equitable Classroom Environment

Seemingly small classroom changes have the potential to impact you and your students massively .

Equity isn’t just a one-time thing but an ongoing process that should be integrated into your classroom expectations and procedures.

Here are simple-to-implement ways you can achieve the goal of equity in the classroom:

  • Welcome students by name as they enter the classroom, asking them for correct spelling and pronunciation of their names.

  • Use random response strategies like Numbered Heads Together, color-coded cards, and calling sticks.

  • Seek multiple perspectives during Q/A sessions using a response like, “That’s one idea. Does anyone else have another?”. This serves to validate all perspectives presented in the classroom.

  • Use body language, gestures, and expressions to show the students you value their questions and opinions—smile, nod head in affirmation, and lean toward students.

  • Identify students’ level of knowledge before instruction begins so that you can develop inclusive lesson plans moving forward. To gauge their capacity of knowledge, use tools like:

    • Word Splash
    • K-W-L (Know, What, Learn)
    • Anticipation Guide
    • Brainstorming
    • Webbing

  • Relate students’ real-life experiences to your lesson so they can witness the pragmatism of education. You can ask the students to reflect upon and discuss the following:

    • “What events/situations occur in your family or neighborhood that require some knowledge of bullying prevention?”
    • How does knowing about social-emotional learning benefit your interactions in your family, neighborhood, or school?

  • Ensure bulletin boards, displays, and instructional materials in the classroom reflect the racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds represented by students.

  • Keep all religious holidays in mind when creating the classroom schedule aside from the usual school holidays. You can even create a cultural lesson where you guide students as they share the significance of the different holidays in their respective cultures and/or religions.

  • Use a variety of visual aids and props to support student learning, like multiethnic photos, pictures, and props, and appropriate technology to illustrate concepts.

  • Give students effective and specific oral and written feedback that prompts improved performance. Go a step further and provide opportunities for students to vet each other through peer reviews.

  • Explain and model positive self-talk going ahead to share the role of positive self-talk in performing positive actions.

Address Inappropriate Remarks

Truth be told, every student comes to the classroom with their own set of biases and assumptions.

Sometimes, they voice them in inappropriate ways that are informed by stereotypes and misinformation.

Open conversation is important for successful classroom equity, but part of building equity is shutting down insensitive remarks, so students show up as their authentic selves in class.

When a student uses language that defies classroom guidelines, follow these steps:

  1. Pause—Stop the lesson at once to focus on the problem so that the important discussion doesn’t lose its impact.

  2. Address—Draw everyone’s attention to the remark without shaming the student. :

    a. Identify why the statement is harmful

    b. Explain why it doesn’t promote equity

  3. Discuss—Initiate a respectful class discussion around the biases and background knowledge that may have triggered the student to make the harmful comment.

Doing this can be quite uncomfortable at first, but discussing inappropriate remarks immediately is a powerful way of promoting equity.

How so?

It shifts focus from blaming the student to empowering all the students in the classroom with new healthier perspectives about their peers.

“Positive Action gives children strategies to change negative attitudes to positive ones. The children are actually taught how to help themselves, and others, to be positive when negative thoughts/actions are present. I am able to see what an impact the program can have on children, even as young as kindergarten.” - Suzee Fujihara, Teacher at Lihikai Elementary (Lihikai, Hawaii)

How Do You Provide Equity in Education?

Equity education ensures children of every race and gender are set up to succeed.

The best way to provide equity in education is highly contingent on the ability of educators to create an ideal classroom environment.

This is where our adaptable, easy-to-use curriculum comes in. Positive Action can be adapted for a wide range of uses that you can take a look at here.

Some of the uses include:

  • Special education
  • Mental health
  • Multiple intelligences
  • Gifted and talented education
  • Multicultural education

Contact us today, and we’ll walk you through our curriculum, showing you how it can meet your specific goals as an institution. Take it from one of our satisfied educators:

“Positive Action is a good curriculum and we tied it in with our PBIS. It really helped in making this a safe school where academics and behavior work together so that everybody can learn.” — From a Principal in Robeson County, North Carolina

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