THE SHADOW OF INEQUITY
In public education circles, we spend a great deal of time talking about equity. As much talking as we do, though, we struggle with actually defining it, and we have a hard time grasping that what is equal isn’t always fair, and what is fair isn’t always equal. We’ve all seen the graphic that illustrates the difference between equality and equity:
Recently I stumbled across a story by blogger Lara David that struck a chord with me, and I’d like to share. She has all her students sit in a circle, and she instructs each of the students to throw left shoes into the center. She then randomly begins to hand out left shoes to students. The students quickly begin to complain because the shoes are either the wrong size or mismatched. “What?” she asks. “I equally distributed the shoes. Everyone has two shoes, so what’s the problem?” Obviously, the answer is that the shoes were not the needed shoes. In order to be equitable, all students would need to have received the shoes that fit and matched. The same challenge exists in public education.
In education, the shoes that we tend to throw into the middle of the circle are teachers and rigorous instruction. How often have we heard the mantra A quality teacher in every classroom? But what does that even mean? Education researchers have provided characteristics of a great teacher – a great teacher respects students; a great teacher is warm, accessible, enthusiastic and caring; a great teacher sets high expectations for all students; a great teacher collaborates with colleagues on an ongoing basis – but do we evaluate and label teachers based on those characteristics? Or do we use a convoluted, biased mystery system?
I’d argue that rigorous instruction is also often defined differently based on the demographics the school is serving. If you are in a more affluent school, rigorous instruction translates to students being challenged by a wealth of educational experiences that come through field trips, outside speakers, after school clubs, etc. Poorer schools are left to rigorously focus on doing well on standardized tests, so that they make sure they don’t get on the naughty list, which makes them eligible for state takeover and to be labeled a failing school. In doing so, we create two separate, unequal tracks for kids upon graduation. Those who have been exposed to a wealth of experiences will gravitate THE SHADOW OF INEQUITY « Dad Gone Wild: