Education: What is Equity?

IMG_1532Ludlow Superintendent Todd Gazda posed this question in a recent Commonwealth Magazine article:  What is equity?  Because, as Dr. Gazda points out, current education policy tends toward equalizing education for all students with standardized curriculums proven by standardized assessment and incentivized “business systems” for implementation.

Equity, like fairness, is not treating every student the same, but rather focuses on giving every student what they need. – Todd Gazda, Commonwealth Magazine

Any educator who has worked for a nanosecond in a classroom knows the truth of that quote. Twenty-five inquiring minds can, at any point in a school day, need twenty-five different things. One may need teacher to soothe a physical hurt. Or another may not have eaten since the last school day. And another may have witnessed a domestic assault at home.

How do you suppose each of these children might engage in learning? Would they be able to engage in the instruction in the same way? Would they have mastered the content objective for the day?  No, equity is not treating each child the same.

Which is why teaching, to me, is not a science that can be boiled down to a set of steps that everyone anyone can do; it is an art. We can expect our students to work and master content. We can hold students to high expectations and have faith and confidence that they will soar. But we should not expect our children to do this in lockstep.

Equity in teaching is taking children where they are, determining what is needed to move ahead, and giving each the supports they need to get there, no matter how long it may take to do so.

Our state and national leaders need to have the courage to allow educators to educate all students. With equity.


A New Voice for Education Reform

A colleague and friend shared this article from the Washington Post this week.

James Meredith, a hero of the Civil Rights Movement, is proposing another kind of education reform – one that is based on equity, on the idea that everyone – not just those who can parse the vagaries of charter school or private school lotteries and applications or financial good-standing – is entitled to a quality education.

Notice that high-stakes, one shot tests aimed at further alienating the haves and the have-nots is not on the list of the America Child’s Bill of Education Rights.  Of the 12 points – and I agree with them all – Number 12 is, for me, the most critical:

12.  A 21st Century Education: A school and a nation where children and teachers are supported, cherished and challenged, and where teachers are left alone to the maximum extent possible by politicians and bureaucrats to do their jobs – – which is to prepare children for life, citizenship, and careers with true 21st century skills: not by drilling them for standardized tests or forcing a culture of stress, overwork and fear upon them, but by helping them fall in love with authentic learning for the rest of their lives, inspiring them with joy, fun, passion, diligence, critical thinking and collaboration, new discoveries and excitement, and having the highest academic expectations of them.

Are you listening Mr. Obama and Mr. Duncan?