Benefits of Educational Equity

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shutterstock_1158342658Is simple equality enough to provide a good education, or should educational institutions be aiming for equity instead?

The concept of educational equity has been in circulation for decades and has been steadily gaining traction in schools and the larger teaching community. Simply put, the idea of educational equity means taking active measures to give every student in the classroom the best chance of success, overcoming barriers - such as racial discrimination or socioeconomic status - that might hold them back.

As American society continues to become more diverse and accepting of minorities, it's important for schools to keep this ideal of educational unity in mind, to create the best student outcomes.

Why Educators Should Be Striving for Equity, Not Just Equality

Some might look at the situation and say, "Aren't our schools already equal? Don't all students have the same rights to attend class, visit the library, and utilize other resources?"

That's true, but it brings to mind the famously ironic quote from Anatole France: "In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets, and steal loaves of bread." In other words, in an inequitable society, mere equality in rulemaking is not enough to create positive outcomes for its members. "Equality" can become doublespeak for perpetuating inequality.

The educational equity movement recognizes that some students come into schools inherently disadvantaged. They may come from poor households unable to afford the increasingly expensive tools of education. They may belong to ethnic minorities that face discrimination. They may face societal disadvantages based on their gender or sexuality.

An equitable school seeks to balance out these disadvantages so that no student's background or inherent traits prevent them from succeeding.

Ways of achieving this are many and varied, depending on the individual situation of each school and the resources available to it. However, some examples can include:

  • Carefully vetting teachers to ensure they display no biases against disadvantaged students and taking decisive action if they display institutional bias in teaching or grading.
  • Investing in student technology programs, such as providing loaner laptops, so poorer students have access to necessary tools.
  • Providing enrichment and remedial teaching options for students who may come into schools lacking necessary skills, such as students who grow up in foreign-language households and don't have strong English skills.
  • Promoting inclusion within school activities and projects to prevent victims of discrimination from being shut out.
  • Creating diverse teaching content aimed at engaging with students who are part of minority groups.

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True educational unity may be difficult to achieve, but it's not impossible. Does your school actively push for equity in its policies? If so, please share your observations or tips in the comments!