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Why Equity Can't Be Ignored In Schools

The term "equity" often sparks heated debates when it's brought up in the context of education, raising concerns among parents, educators, and policymakers. Many fear that focusing on equity might mean lowering standards or implementing unfair advantages. Luckily, these apprehensions usually stem from misunderstandings about what educational equity truly means and aims to achieve.

At its core, educational equity is about ensuring every child has a fair opportunity to succeed, regardless of their background or circumstances. It's not about guaranteeing equal outcomes, but rather about providing the necessary resources and support to level the playing field. As noted by the National School Boards Association, "Educational equity means that every student has access to the resources and educational rigor they need at the right moment in their education, regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, family background, or family income."

The reality of educational inequity in America is stark and rooted in systemic issues. School funding, largely based on local property taxes, creates vast disparities between districts. A 2019 report by EdBuild found that predominantly white school districts received $23 billion more in funding than districts serving mostly students of color, despite serving a similar number of students. These financial differences manifest in teacher quality, educational resources, and learning opportunities available to students.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these pre-existing inequalities. According to a McKinsey & Company report, students in majority-Black schools ended the 2020-21 school year with six months of unfinished learning, compared to four months for students in majority-white schools. This widening gap underscores the urgent need for equitable solutions in education.

Critics worry that focusing on equity might lead to a "race to the bottom" in academic achievement or result in reverse discrimination. However, research suggests otherwise. A study published in the American Educational Research Journal found that schools implementing equity-focused policies saw improvements in academic achievement across all student groups, not just those traditionally underserved.

Addressing these inequities requires systemic change, but it doesn't mean compromising educational excellence. The Learning Policy Institute suggests several evidence-based strategies, including reforming school funding models, investing in early childhood education, providing comprehensive support services in underserved schools, and implementing culturally responsive teaching practices.

As we move forward in this conversation, it's crucial to approach the topic with openness and empathy. Understanding that equity is about fairness and opportunity, not preferential treatment, can help alleviate fears and foster productive dialogue. The American Psychological Association emphasizes that "equity in education requires putting systems in place to ensure that every child has an equal chance for success."

Equity in education isn't a zero-sum game. When we ensure that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential, our society becomes stronger, our economy more robust, and our future brighter. As stated by the Economic Policy Institute, "Providing a high-quality education to all children is critical to America's economic future."


Why Equity Can't Be Ignored In Schools

"Equity can be loaded and so I want to make sure that we are using words and having the same definition. When I say equity, I am talking about everyone having an opportunity to be as healthy as possible or to have an opportunity to learn and be successful in school.

Financial resources are a huge part of that. When we're thinking and talking about inequities, especially with kids in schools, we have school districts that have such vastly different financial, you know, resources that it comes out in play in, you know, who's hired to teach students, what opportunities are afforded to those students, what books, what, you know, field trips that may be offered. There are all of these pieces.

And so everyone didn't have that same opportunity before the pandemic. And with the pandemic, all of those inequities that existed right. Individuals may be having different opportunities because of what their schools could offer, and what their communities could offer. Once we've gone through the pandemic, those inequities have been exacerbated. So things that were bad are now a lot worse.

So, you know, when you're thinking about how do we circle back, how do we address this, this isn't new. And so we have to go back and look at what are some of the policies, what are some of the plans that have been in place before that weren't working and not double down on them, but instead figure out how do we kind of level the playing field?"

- Marcellina Melvin


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