Thoughts on Equity in Education: Inspiring Hope

Posted on: Wed, 02/24/2021 - 15:00

Attending AASA’s National Conference on Education is always a wonderful professional growth opportunity. This year’s virtual conference focused on reopening schools, equity, and social-emotional learning. Timely, relevant, and thought-provoking!

Dr. Pedro Noguera, Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education, has been a champion for equity for decades. I first heard Dr. Noguera speak in the mid-1990s at a conference in Baltimore County. His message supported a critical step in my own cultural proficiency journey.

Last week, I attended his session titled “Schooling for Resilience: A Holistic Approach to Student Success” at the National Conference on Education. As I listened to the presentation, I was at first saddened to think that his advocacy and research around equity was still focused on challenges that he presented decades ago in Baltimore County. The achievement and opportunity gaps are still real for too many students in our nation’s schools.

Yet, there was a difference in Dr. Noguera’s presentation most recently that did give me great hope. And it is best summarized in the following graphics on equity versus equality. Many educators have seen the graphic below used in professional learning sessions on equity.

equality vs equityThis image provides a visual reminder that equality and equity are not the same, and that equity requires providing the supports necessary to ensure each student is able to achieve the goal.

Yet, the goal in this picture is to simply see the baseball game despite the barrier, the fence, faced. And here is where Dr. Noguera’s presentation and comments changed significantly from the presentation I heard many decades ago.

Dr. Noguera shared a new image that expanded on this simplistic view of equity. The presentation described the barriers, the fences, in education that impact equity:

  • Complacency
  • Implicit bias
  • Seeing teaching and learning as disconnected
  • Punitive mindset
  • Unequal access to external support
  • Ignoring basic needs and focusing strictly on achievement

reality vs liberationIn this presentation, the reality of what many students face in school becomes more apparent.  And the answer does not lie in simply putting more resources (or boxes) in place, but in removing the barriers.

As I examined the list of barriers presented by Dr. Noguera, I was hopeful.  FCPS has been addressing many of these barriers through the work on cultural proficiency and equity, restorative practices, standards-based grading, social-emotional learning, and valuable partnerships with community agencies to support basic needs. This presentation affirmed for me that we are moving in the right direction, and that we must continue to look for additional strategies to remove the barriers.

2021 is the year of hope! I hope and believe that FCPS will continue to knock down more of the barriers to equity within our school system. And that we will do it #FCPSTogether.