Saturday December 11, 2021

Equity vs Equality

What’s the difference between equality and equity? Picture in your mind three children in front of a stockade fence. Each is standing on a box. One can easily see over the fence because the box is on higher ground. One can see over the fence while standing on his toes because the box is on ground that is slightly lower. The third stands on a box but is on ground quite a bit lower than the other two and can’t see over the fence at all. They all have the same size box, but start at very different places. That is equality.


Equity, on the other hand, provides additional boxes to the second and third child, allowing each of them the same access to see over the fence.


The Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education, led by Board member Ruth Veales, developed and approved an equity policy a few years ago and it provides the lens for all of their planning and work.


The definition of educational equity, according to the National Equity Project, means that each child receives what they need to develop to their full academic and social potential. Moving to a system of educational equity is in some ways counter intuitive to the way public education was designed by our country’s forefathers. Thomas Jefferson, the creator of public education, called for filtering only “superior” boys to continue past a few years of education. We have certainly (and thankfully) made changes since those early days of public education, but continuing to have the sometimes difficult discussions about the realities for many of our students is imperative.


The National Equity Project shares areas of focus for building educational equity and breaks them into six categories that OKCPS also mirrors with their work: Outcomes, classroom practices, curriculum, culture of students in a school, parents and families, and school and district policies are all part of the mix.


Each category includes a blue print of sorts, with factors such as support for English Learners and their families and setting high expectations with supports to all students. These supports include understanding and supporting different cultures and making students feel valued; creating curriculum that represents the contributions of all people (for example women and people of color and sharing the facts about all periods of U.S. History) and ensuring that all parents and guardians feel welcome at school.


Creating educational equity is complex and requires intentional work. OKCPS is doing this work, by developing and implementing a concise and measurable plan to create the cultural shift.  We must remember that this also takes the continued support and understanding of our community. As the National Equity Project states, “When you know your ‘why’, your ‘what’ has more impact. We need one another. Our fates are linked. If one part of our human ecosystem is unwell, we are all negatively affected. Likewise, if all parts of our community are healthy and cared for, we all thrive.”  Our kids deserve this.

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