3 Solutions to Improve Equity in K-12 Learning

Amendment XIV of the U.S. Constitution mandated that “no state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. Therefore, no child can legally be denied the right to a public education in the United States.  So it should not be surprising that equity in education has long been an ideal—and that ensuring equity among all students, regardless of their personal circumstances, has been a primary goal of educators.

Unfortunately, actually creating that equity has been difficult.  A 2013 report called “For Each and Every Child” reported that “some young Americans – most of them white and affluent – are getting a world-class education” while those who “attend schools in high poverty neighborhoods are getting an education that more closely approximates schools in developing nations.”

The government does want to solve this issue. It has recommended that states identify and report on the resources they need for a quality education. It has recommended adopting and implementing a school finance system to provide “equitable and sufficient funding” for all students essentially to meet learning standards.

However, this is problematic because the issue of equity, and perhaps equality, is not just about the money. There are many elements at play.

Here are some ways to improve the quality of education for everyone in this country, not just a select few.

  1. Better resource allocation

The first step would be to figure out how education can be made equitable to all students.  This assessment should not directly involve teachers or administrators, whose viewpoint may be skewed. Instead, the assessment should be through observation.

After all, the assumption seems to be that money – preferably money poured into schools – is enough to solve educational issues. That is, reassignment of resources to support schools in poorer areas will be sufficient, along with some reporting on considered needs, to balance the public education system.  This is problematic because the issue of equity, and perhaps equality, is far more complex than an influx of money can solve – but it is certainly a good starting point.

  1. Better feedback on what’s working.

States should provide feedback on those programs and strategies that are most effective for equity building.  Part of the problem with the government’s solutions is that they assume states and even schools can figure out what it is they need or what it is they need to do to provide a quality education.  This is not effective for a problem as multi-layered as this.

Gathering a compilation of feedback from the states will help the government rank the most effective programs so that they can be shared with all.

  1. Analyze findings for better results.

School systems need to have an approach for analyzing findings about recommended shifts in learning approaches and objectives. These approaches should be designed to help teachers and administrators understand not just what they have to avoid but also what it is that they can do to achieve optimal equity moving forward. This will take massive amounts of data that will need to be centrally collected, understood, and used to improve equity in all K-12 public schools.

What, if anything, do you think needs to be done to improve the balance of education for kids in this country?

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