"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, October 24, 2016

Why Equity in Schools Is a Must

Brian Butler, a principal at the school my children attend, posted on Facebook, "For example we tend to select "the good kids" to be school safety patrols in elementary school because they seem to always do the right things and don't cause trouble. Over the years this practice has not set well with me as I began to notice that the kids who are most left out especially in elementary school are boys and more importantly boys of color. How could I in good conscience say any school that I am a part of is for the success of every child if in certain areas I nod and wink at practices that totally go against my words and beliefs." 

My son proudly wears the safety patrol belt as he accompanies the kindergarten class to their school bus
Butler's main point is equity. "All means all". Every child must be given the opportunity. Equity is indeed important in schools. And it is not necessary for the child alone, equity is likewise a must for teachers as well. At the heart of labeling children and setting expectations according to such labels is in fact an abrogation of teaching. McLeod points out in "Pygmalion or Golem? Teacher Affect and Efficacy":
Another teacher trait that has been shown to have an effect on student achievement is the teacher's sense of efficacy-that is, teachers' belief that they can have a positive effect on student learning. This is not just the power of positive thinking; a teacher's sense of efficacy will determine the amount of effort she puts into her teaching, her task choices, her degree of persistence when confronted with difficulties, her motivation to continue.
A teacher's sense of efficacy is strongly tied to how a teacher looks at his or her students. And of course, this teacher trait is intimately related to the climate inside the school. Thus, it is not surprising to see correlations between student performance, sense of fairness and equity, and school climate.

In a study of 58 high schools in the state of Maryland, strong correlations are seen between suspensions, sense of inequity, school belonging, and adjustment problems:
We found that school-level discipline gaps were associated with Black students’ perceptions of less school equity ( .54, p .001), less school belonging ( .50, p .001), and increased adjustment problems ( .77, p .001), even when accounting for student demographics (i.e., gender, grade level, socioeconomic status) and school-level contextual factors (i.e., socioeconomic status, student diversity, overall suspension rates), whereas these associations were not significant for White students.
The Golem effect (From Wikipedia: a psychological phenomenon in which lower expectations placed upon individuals either by supervisors or the individual themselves lead to poorer performance by the individual.) is clearly at work from the perspective of the students. Wherever Black students feel that rules are not fair and that they do not belong to the school, school suspensions are higher and are biased disfavoring Black students.

I made my son read what his principal wrote. And he seemed to understand that it is indeed true that all of the children in the school deserve an opportunity. After all, this is what schools are for.

Butler ends his post with the following:
All means all and if you want to be a safety patrol in our school all you have to do is complete an application and have it signed by your parents and you are in. If you are one of those students who traditionally push outside of the lines a bit and you don't turn in a permission slip, we are coming for you and asking why!

By the way you too are a good kid and we like your swagger.😉
When we work for equity in schools, it requires no less than a firm conviction.




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