How to Improve Equity in K-12 Learning

Since 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,” no child can legally be denied the right to a public education in the United States.  As such, equity in education has long been an ideal and ensuring equity among all students, regardless of their personal circumstances, has been a primary goal of educators.

Unfortunately, the practice of equity in education has been less than effective.  Government steps that have been recommended to remedy the problem include having states specifically identify and report on the teaching staff, programs, and services they deem necessary for a quality education; and adopting and implementing a school finance system to provide “equitable and sufficient funding” for all students essentially to meet learning standards.  These recommendations follow a 2013 report called, “For Each and Every Child”, in which it was 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 problem of ensuring that every child in the United States receives a quality education is quite a substantial one.

Better resource allocation

Perhaps then, the first step to addressing this issue should be for some determination to be made about how, under general circumstances, education can be made equitable to all students.  This assessment should not directly involve teachers or administrators, whose assessment may be skewed, but rather 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.

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 ultimately schools can figure out what it is they need or what it is they need to do to provide a quality education.  There are many elements at play, not just the immediate financial ones. Students in certain affluent areas have the benefit of the best teachers, given that it is highly desirable to have a placement in this area. It is also decidedly competitive to even try.  Therefore, a compilation of feedback from the states should be gathered in order to rank the most effective programs so that they can be shared with all.

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.

The goal of achieving equity in schools has long been a goal of the education system.  However, most attempts to date have fallen far short of the mark.

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



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