Educational equity is a multi facet-concept. It is dependent on three main factors: 1) access, 2) high standards and expectations, and 3) resources. This article clarifies each of these factors in order to understand the equity debate in education.
Factor One: Access
The goal of educational access is to ensure all individuals can take advantage of all learning opportunities provide by their K-12 district, regardless of their social class, gender, ethnic background or physical and intellectual disabilities.
Educational advocates made this a national issue because some K-12 systems were:
- Implemented policies that prevented certain students from participating in elite academic programs,
- Overlooked or ignored learning disabilities or learning needs in their K-12 population,
- Or intentionally or unintentionally withdrew resources from particular schools that serviced specialized populations (i.e., special education or English language learners.
Advocates have encouraged school districts to remove any actual or potential barriers that might prevent some students from equitable participation in certain courses or academic programs. They want K-12 systems to fund all its schools equally.
Factor Two: High Standards and Expectations
It is expected that all school systems will make every effort to set the same high educational standards for all learners. Equity advocates allege that not all school districts demand or push for high academic standards. And, this effectively denies kids opportunities to develop the requisite skills need to acquire a job or earn a post-secondary diploma or certificate.
As a result of this advocacy work, the standard movement emerged. Districts are now accountable to make sure all students receive a high quality education and are graduating with the requisite skills. And, K-12 systems must demonstrate to the community how they are improving educational achievement, raising educational standards, and create conditions for high academic expectations for all children, especially for students from lower income families.
Factor Three: Resources
All K-12 systems are required to equip each school site with the basic resources to help students achieve academically. These resources may include up to date instructional materials, a safe school building, functioning technology hardware and software, and high-quality teachers and staff members.
Educational resources are funded by federal, state, and local sources (i.e. Property tax). Because property taxes have traditionally been a large source of funding for schools, wealthy districts can spend more on education resources, while low income or working class communities can only spend for the bare necessities.
Education advocates are concerned that unequal distribution of resources will impact the quality of education received by low-income and working class students. To equalize educational resources across the nation, K-12 advocates are encouraging States to change their funding formula to level the educational playing field between districts.
Motivation to Improve Fairness
Advocates, policymakers, and parents are motivated to dismantle inequities in education because more than ever before, a student’s level of education is directly correlated to his or her economic viability.
And, our 21st-century high-tech society requires a future workforce with employability skills. This means that all our nation’s schools must equitably educate all students, so that they have equal opportunities to compete in the labor market in the United States and globally.