May 23, 2017

Pursuing Equity in the Classroom and Community

It is said that education unlocks doors to opportunity. Yet, as long as the quality of learning varies based on neighborhood, race, or class, a policy of equity rather than equality may be the key to making an equal playing field.

Committing to equity means ensuring that all students who need more support than others to achieve their academic goals receive the same amount of resources. When a district budget adds $100 to educating each student equally, systemic disadvantages remain in place.

Districts can ensure resource equity by allocating funds to particular populations within their communities.  For example, a district could use additional funds to develop reduced lunch and weekend lunch programs that are designed to help low income students combat food insecurity.  Programs like these help bridge the achievement gap and and maximize student body potential.

Some examples of public schools that recognize equity is an essential part of building a successful educational system are:

  • Oakland Public Schools in California made an Oakland Public Schools Equity Pledge in an effort to tackle disparities in the community. This pledge states that all public schools should be accessible to all students, accountable for high standards of performance, and provide equitable access to resources.
  • Paul Public Schools in Minnesota has an Office of Equity that focuses on closing the racial achievement gap by providing additional academic support for the district’s lowest performing students.
  • Tukwila School District in Seattle hosted a fundraiser to support the homeless and housing-inecure students in their district. The district raised $33,000 that went towards local organizations that work to provide meals, clothing, and school supplies for these students.

A major challenge of pursuing equity is that conditions outside of schools often contribute to the disparities seen in school. Effective equity initiatives must not just target classrooms, but must be community-wide efforts.

In Evanston, Illinois, more than 40 community partners, including the city, the school district, nonprofits, businesses, and hospitals have come together to address the racial achievement gap using a collective impact model. Evanston Cradle to Career, as the community collective is called, is structured around the belief that greater change happens when everyone’s voice is at the table. As a result, a conversation about reducing students’ summer learning loss included all facets of the community, and led to more and better targeted summer programming at the YMCA, public library, Youth Job Center, and Park District.

Some steps you can take to make your school more equitable are:

  • Identify how resources and funds are being distributed and where inequities exist.
  • Make a school equity pledge proclaiming the environment you will create to ensure equity moving forward.
  • Collaborate with community partners and parents to incorporate external interests and opportunities.
  • Expand funding and revenue channels to grow equity initiatives. EFP can help – please contact us to learn more.

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