Education: The search for Equity not Equality

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Edglossay wrote “In education, the term equity refers to the principle of fairness. While it is often used interchangeably with the related principle of equality, equity encompasses a wide variety of educational models, programs, and strategies that may be considered fair, but not necessarily equal. It is has been said that “equity is the process; equality is the outcome,” given that equity—what is fair and just—may not, in the process of educating students, reflect strict equality—what is applied, allocated, or distributed equally. Inequities occur when biased or unfair policies, programs, practices, or situations contribute to a lack of equality in educational performance, results, and outcomes. For example, certain students or groups of students may attend school, graduate, or enroll in postsecondary education at lower rates, or they may perform comparatively poorly on standardized tests due to a wide variety of factors, including inherent biases or flaws in test designs.”

For example, the article wrote “Cultural inequity: Students from diverse cultural backgrounds may be disadvantaged in a variety of ways when pursuing their education. For example, immigrant and refugee students and their families may have difficulties navigating the public-education system or making educational choices that are in their best interests. In addition, these students may struggle in school because they are unfamiliar with customs, social expectations, slang, and cultural references

I say this because I can see even in my own children, that not all children, start from the same place so an ‘equity’ – fairness of opportunities will still not yield equality in results. My mother came to Philadelphia by way of Bryn Mawr college. By the time I went to school, both my uncle and my aunt had graduated from college. As a result, I was expected to succeed in school by my parents and that expectation was enforced at the schools’ my mother chose for me. Inherently, my education and even my daughter’s education shows that girls tend to perform better in classroom settings that are mainly designed by women. While I see the same and even greater opportunities in my daughter’s education, I also see a dearth of opportunities for my sons.

The lack of opportunities for brown boys is a design flaw. Why would I say this? We are not giving all students equity in afterschool programs, job training opportunities and educational options. I live in West Philadelphia. A community of low to middle class working adults. What happens for our bright students, our low income students and our average students do not eqaute to equality. There is an abundance of programs for our brightest students – Girls Ellis Trust, Minds over Matter, PRIME, Upward Bound, Drexel Honors Program, and a plethora of magnet schools. There are also an abundance of programs – Achievability, http://letsgetready.org/, etc..for low income students. The problem with both of these options is the assumption that students are the same. EVERY student does not start at the same point. This is knowledge I learned from http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/equality-is-not-enough/

The article wrote “Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Equity appears unfair, but it actively moves everyone closer to success by “leveling the playing field.” Because everyone does not start at the same place therefore not everyone has the same needs to be successful in academics. The article went on to say “Classrooms, for example, are made up of different learners. This means that students enter the classroom with different learning styles (such as visual, auditory, or tactile). Visual learners and auditory learners will process information differently and, thus, have different needs. If the teacher always lectures, auditory learners have the advantage. So it doesn’t matter that the outraged student wants to listen to the audiotape to complete the writing task. What matters is whether the student needs to listen to directions on an audiotape in order to be successful with the writing task. Since everyone is different and we embrace these differences as unique, we must also redefine our basic expectations for fairness and success as contingent upon those individual differences.

In the real world, this means that some people will need a language translator when speaking to a government agency and others will not. And it wouldn’t be fair to just provide Spanish translators just because it is the language most people speak. A Spanish translator would not allow a Korean speaker the same access to opportunities.

That would be privilege.” Let’s get back to what I can contribute on top of these learned view points. What I see missing in education is the fact that someone has to CARE about a child before that child can learn from that person. There is a trust relationship that must be established in order to learn. If the student does not have the trust of a loving supportive environment at home, that mistrust of adults is brought into the school. The best teachers have an emotional connection to the students. So classrooms must be set with positive environments allowing students to want to come to school (not be treated like a criminal in a prison) with a teacher who has a connection to the student AND to the parent of the student. Some urban students actually have a deep emotional need in order to function from the trauma in their home life. Some urban students need pencils, pens and school supplies to feel adequate to their peers. Some urban students need breakfast. Some urban students need meditation and quietness of their surroundings. Most students need positive affirmations. As you can read in this article, I am not even talking about actual learning process of reading, writing and arithmetic.

The smart students are not getting equality. They were already receiving the best resources. By continuing to give the best students even more programs I see this category as receiving privilege. The article says “Privilege is when we make decisions that benefit enough people – the smart kids who do well in school, but not all people. Privilege is allowed to continue when we wrap it up with actions of equality. On the outside, everything appears fair, because how can we argue against equal treatment? When we uncover the equality blanket, we see that not everyone’s needs are met.” We are not actually spreading the resources fairly across all students because the average students get no special programs (meaning they don’t qualify for the smart programs because they have a few C’s and get no additional benefits because their family does not qualify as being “low income.”)

Now I understand that as “smart kid”, I received a privileged education. It is my expectation that all Philadephia children have the privilege of teachers who care about them whether they are the smart kids, the low income students or the average students. The equality that urban students need are people (parents, teachers, administrators, community) who CARE for them to succeed in school, succeed as parents and succeed in life.

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