What are the critical factors in assessing educational equity?
First of all, we need to take a look at our students and see if all of their needs are being met. Things like gender, race/ethnicity, income, parent education, immigrant status, home language, and English language proficiency need to be considered when planning how to meet students’ educational needs. In other words, students have had a variety of unique experiences that have shaped their characters thus far and these experiences have an impact on their perceptions of the world, which may be very different from even their teachers’ perceptions.
Teachers need to be aware of their own personal biases. This is not easy because sometimes we are unaware that we feel a certain way until it hits us in the face. But we should strive to be open-minded and consider students as individuals, not as groups of people being herded through a system. Teachers aren’t the only ones who need to think about bias, though. Administrators, community leaders, state and local leaders – essentially everyone needs to take stock of their predispositions and preconceived notions because we all have a stake in children’s education. Let’s say it again – They are our future. Some groups of people are consistently underserved and that is another factor that needs to be considered.
Then we need to think about the individual student’s access to resources such as books and technology in their school and at home. Money is a big factor whether we are talking about the amount of money earned by students’ families or the amount of money allotted to school systems and the way it is distributed. Money often equals access. Lack of digital technology could hamper the level of equity by pushing those who don’t have equal access even further toward the bottom of the educational ladder of achievement.
Another factor to think about is whether a student has been adequately served in the past just in case he or she is about to slip between the cracks. We need to identify the lower and higher achievers and all those in the middle so that we can start personalizing their learning and helping them get to where they need to go. This may sound like quite a bit of work for the teacher, but students are not all alike. We also need to arrange for a variety of assessments to meet diverse student needs.