Equity is where all have access to achieve a common goal no matter the ability. In education, this means, for example, that students learn to accomplish a task but may use different strategies to get there.
I just spent two days at a training to help educators to fully understand equity and the impact of it (or lack of) on our students. In some ways it is eye-opening.
We began with a discussion on race, equality, equity, etc. We did an activity in which we placed colored beads in a cup based on the race-based answers to questions. The beads themselves were representative of the skin color of races. Teachers and staff were asked questions about the race of our spouse, people we go to church with, favorite author, artist, doctor, neighbors, etc.
Many of the teachers were shocked to see the colors of the beads in our cups. Absolutely, I know I was surprised. Most teachers, including me, don’t consider themselves to be racist at all. However, most of the beads in my cup were white. That doesn’t make me racist. I did think about the area in which I live. There are very few people of other races in my neighborhood, or in my community. My cup reflected that.
We discussed this as a group and we came to the conclusion that if we lived in a different area, where other races were more prevalent then my cup would reflect that. This activity did make me examine and question myself.
The Beginning of a Plan
As the training went on the teachers learned more about the equity side – not to be confused with equality. Equality is equal access for all. Equity is what is fair – leveling the playing field. By this, I do not mean to lower the expectations. When it comes to learning, not every student needs the exact same strategy or tools. If it were a multiplication problem, some students can solve it using a standard algorithm, others might need a multiplication chart or alternate method to solve.
A carpenter doesn’t use the same tool for every job. Definitely, he might use a fine sandpaper to smooth something out, but he would use a hammer to distress a piece of wood.
As a school, a group of teachers and administration had to develop a plan to share with our school and begin a discussion. Therefore, we chose to focus on behavior because our data shows there is an issue dis-proportionally among our various sub-groups. Teachers and administration have set up a tentative plan to create a focus group and to hear from all parties involved.
We want the input of ALL staff, administration and even the students and parents. The staff wants to know who to best help students. But above all, teachers need to understand where a child is so we can know best how to make the classroom equitable for them.
The next steps will not be easy. We will get that buy-in. Administration and staff have the district level support. We will take the time to help make this happen. Equity is important for our students to learn and grow.
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