How to Address Inequity in Schools

Standardized test scores do inform us of problems in basic education. One important piece is the achievement gap between the poor and the rich. We must, however, go a step further than looking at test scores. Only then would we see the gap in learning opportunities. A gap in achievement after all can be due to a gap in opportunities. The first step then is to commit ourselves to an "education for all", and all means all. Only with this commitment can we begin providing all students the resources and support they need. We can then challenge all of them to achieve the best they can be. Such task is not impossible.

The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder has a project called "Schools of Opportunity", which recognizes public high schools that can serve as excellent models for equity in education. There is obviously not one solution to address achievement gaps. However, by looking at the various criteria used by "Schools of Opportunity", one may actually find rough guidelines on how to achieve a just, effective, fair and equitable school. An article published in the journal Phi Delta Kappan, "Learning from schools that close opportunity gaps" lists the following criteria:

Above copied from
LaCour, Sarah E., et al. "Learning from schools that close opportunity gaps." Phi Delta Kappan 99.1 (2017): 8-14.

Selection Criteria:
  1. Broadening and enriching learning opportunities
  2. Creating and maintaining a healthy school culture
  3. Providing more and better learning time during the school year and summer
  4. Using a variety of assessments designed to respond to student needs
  5. Supporting teachers as professionals
  6. Meeting the needs of students with disabilities in an environment that ensures challenge and support
  7. Providing students with additional needed services and supports, including mental and physical health services
  8. Creating a challenging and supported culturally relevant curriculum
  9. Building on the strengths of language minority students and correctly identifying their needs
  10. Sustaining equitable and meaningful parent and community engagement

Here is the key point seen by browsing through schools that have been recognized:

Above copied from
LaCour, Sarah E., et al. "Learning from schools that close opportunity gaps." Phi Delta Kappan 99.1 (2017): 8-14.

Needless to say, there is also not one best practice to establish equity in schools. Equal access to the curriculum in some cases may just mean providing healthy meals to all children. In some, a safe school climate, one that is free of bullying, for instance, is necessary. There are so many possible impediments to learning that are even outside the mere opportunity to enroll in a course.

The above are likewise obviously impossible for a single teacher to achieve. Thus, without saying, the changes require the school and the community to work as a team.

Lastly, we can indeed look at test scores but we must see the real problem that the scores are telling us. It is the achievement gap. It is the inequity. Only then would we realize that the answer to the problems basic education faces is equity.