Is equitable really fair for all students?
Equity in Schools: Why Trying to Make Education ore Equitable Leads to More Inequities
Call it a reality check or cynicism through experience; we are doing a disservice to ourselves, our taxpayers, and even our general education and high achieving students as we struggle to make educational opportunities “equitable” for all. The ones who lose out are the most promising students in public education.
Let’s define the word “equitable”:
According to dictionary.com, “characterized by equity or fairness; just and right; fair; reasonable: equitable treatment of all citizens.” The trouble is, not all people are the same. Not all people come from the same circumstances, and not all people learn at the same rate or have the cognitive wear with all or ability to learn simultaneously. For some, they may never achieve what their peers accomplish, no matter how much time, money, educational personnel, or opportunities we offer.
What has equity done to serve all so far?
Regardless of the new-age idea that all education is equitable for all, we still see an achievement gap. The poor will still, in most scenarios, perform poorly while the middle class and upper-class students often will outperform those raised in poverty. It has been this way for centuries.
The issue of poverty and school performance is multifactorial and often arises from causes that originate before birth. Substandard housing, unsupportive families, access to enriching activities, transportation, adequate nutrition, lack of positive role models, drug and alcohol abuse, lack of two-parent homes, lack of gainful employment opportunities, lack of marriage, disease, poor choices, inability to understand cause and effect, basic daily survival, poor health and dental care and simple language registers used are just a some of the many challenges facing students from poverty. School systems were designed and staffed to serve education to all. They are not designed to meet every personal and family need, from food to healthcare to mental care needs. Schools offer an education - not make up for lack of parenting or low-income family values.
The Underserved Are the General Education and Gifted Populations:
With so much time, resources, money, and human resources devoted to those who are in poverty or on Individualized Education Plans, there is very little time left in the day to devote to students who are willing to learn, who can learn, and want to succeed. For example, I just spent much of my day online with a parent whose child has done NO work for the last eight weeks of remote school. Again, I got to hear why there must be a problem with the learning platform because her daughter is doing the work. Well, I might be on board with this claim, except for the fact that I had many tech support personal and platform support personnel look into this so-called problem. All complaints and issues were investigated, and the system was working fine.
Interestingly, speaking to mom, who was very ready to fight with me, didn’t even know anything about the lessons, the quizzes, or the paperwork to print off and do with her child. Hmmm….make your assessment of this. No work completed, and her daughter has spent about 9 minutes on the platform the whole year. A couple of assignments were done and passed in the first week. Then nothing for the remaining seven weeks.
The other part of my day was talking to a staff member about ways to help support a child who has done and - you guessed it - nothing completed for eight weeks of school! I upload printables for the curriculum director to drive to and bring to this parent. This parent has a one to one support person, the curriculum director, principal, behavioral interventionist, the guidance counselor, and myself trying to encourage and support this family. Hours, time, resources, and human resources dedicated to those who signed up for remote learning, knowing they needed to help teach their child and access a printer. Yet...here we are. No work. No printer. Plenty of excuses.
My time and effort should be devoted to students and families who want to learn:
I have about seven families who are working with their children on remote learning. Families who read to and support the learning process. Families who ask legitimate questions and often produce high-quality work. These students will graduate from online education far ahead of peers who show minimal engagement and effort. However, I don’t have time to devote to them as I am perpetually helping those who: miss schoolwork, reporting out on attendance to those who habitually do not show and nothing is done about it, answering emails, uploading grades, having meetings with excuse-making parents and children who have little work to offer, and garnering support to tackle the next challenge these families have with getting their child to do any work.
Is this fair? Is this equitable? Let’s face it. We will always need janitors and food service workers. Why aren’t we pouring more time and energy into those students who may become people who can and will help the greater good? Why do we cater to the many who often cannot or will not help themselves? The budding doctors, entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists, etc., do not get adequate attention and time from their teachers because...those who live in poverty dominate all if not most of it. It is true. Your general education or advanced students are not getting their fair and equitable amount of time, attention, and resources. Why? It is going to the many students and families that simply don’t care about education in America. That’s why.
~Amanda Allison, M.Ed.