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1. Ready

What is the difference between equity and equality?

The words equity and equality both come from the same Latin root word aequus meaning level, even, or just. At their core, both equality and equity strive towards some form of being equal.  However, the two letters, ‘a’ and ‘l’, that differentiate equality from equity, also help a floundering person start flourishing.

Equality Putnam-Walkerly, K., & Russell, E. (2016, September 15). What the Heck Does ‘Equity’ Mean? Stanford Social Innovation Review.
is where everyone gets the same thing, the same amount of something, or the same treatment, despite their existing needs or assets. When everyone starts on an equal playing field, equality can be fair. But, more often than not, equality does not allow everyone’s needs to be met and does not enable access to the same opportunities because it fails to consider individual differences and needs.

Equity, Putnam-Walkerly, K., & Russell, E. (2016, September 15). What the Heck Does ‘Equity’ Mean? Stanford Social Innovation Review.
on the other hand, is about everyone getting what they need to succeed. It’s about having “access to opportunity, networks, resources and support based on where [you] are and where [you] want to go”. Equity isn’t necessarily about treating everyone the same. It’s about treating everyone according to their needs so that they have the same opportunities.

What is fair?

Fairness is
rated by students Curwin, R. (2012, October 23). Fair Isn’t Equal: Seven Classroom Tips. Edutopia.
as one of the most important qualities in teachers. But what does it actually mean to be fair? Fairness is often defined as treating everyone the same. As a result, fairness tends to be associated with equality. Consider the first graphic, where people of different abilities and with different needs are given the same bike. Everyone is treated the same, so the situation is fair. Right? Wrong. Equality is sameness. Equity is fairness. Fairness is about treating everyone according to their needs. Sometimes this will look equal, but often it won’t. One of the most common protests from teachers is that equity, or treating every student according to their needs, takes more time. However,
Richard Curwin Curwin, R. (2012, October 23). Fair Isn’t Equal: Seven Classroom Tips. Edutopia.
argues that the time it takes to establish equitable solutions for all learners does not take nearly as much time as “unsuccessful solutions to behaviour problems that continue to eat classroom time in five-to-fifteen minute chunks over the course of a year”.

Why is equity important?

The
Scholastic Teachers and Principals Report Scholastic Team. (n.d.). Barriers to Equity in Education: Teacher & Principal School Report. Scholastic.
suggests that “teachers and principals universally agree that equity in education should be a national priority”, and rightly so. When schools focus on providing students with resources that
“fit individual circumstances, Waterford. (2019, May 2). Why Understanding Equity vs Equality in Schools Can Help You Create an Inclusive Classroom. Waterford.org.
the entire classroom environment improves”. Equity in education is necessary to
close the achievement gap Ott, L. (2017). Solving the Achievement Gap through Equity, Not Equality [video]. TED.
and catalyzes
academic achievement. Gorard, S., & Smith, E. (2004). An international comparison of equity in education systems. Comparative Education, 40(1), 15–28.
When schools are mindful of student’s different backgrounds, needs and abilities, and when they provide the right resources, all students are ready to learn and able to flourish. Not only this, but when schools
promote diversity and individuality Waterford. (2019, May 2). Why Understanding Equity vs Equality in Schools Can Help You Create an Inclusive Classroom. Waterford.org.
by supporting students from all different backgrounds, students feel more comfortable at school and are better able to regulate emotions. Moreover, students who are successfully
integrated in socioeconomically and racially diverse schools The Century Foundation. (2019, April 29). The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms. TCF.
have higher average test scores, are more likely to enroll in college, and less likely to drop out.

Within the community, equity has also been associated with better
health and wellbeing, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario [RNAO]. (2013, July). Fairer Societies for Better Health Equity.
increased lifespan,
health and wellbeing, Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario [RNAO]. (2013, July). Fairer Societies for Better Health Equity.
and
economic growth. Dastjerdi, R., & Isfahani, R. (2011). Equity and economic growth, a theoretical and empirical study: MENA zone. Economic Modelling, 28(1-2), 694–700.
As suggested by “promoting equity in schools can be one of the best and most effective social investments”.

What are the barriers to equity in education?

There are many external and internal barriers to equity in education that prevail across regions, ages, and metro status’. In the United States,
87% of educators Scholastic Team. (n.d.). Barriers to Equity in Education: Teacher & Principal School Report. Scholastic.
say that many of their students face barriers to learning, such as trauma, mental illness, poverty, housing, and family crises, that come from outside the school environment, and that these external barriers are greater for children from lower income households. Across the United States, principals agreed that the
biggest barriers to student learning, Scholastic Team. (n.d.). Barriers to Equity in Education: Teacher & Principal School Report. Scholastic.
from most to least prevalent, are as follows: experiencing family or personal crisis, mental health challenges, poverty, lack of food, lack of healthcare, homelessness or temporary housing, and needing English language learning support.

Unfortunately, these barriers to education
disproportionately affect students of lower socioeconomic status’ OECD Observer Staff. (2008). Ten Steps to Equity in Education [Policy Brief]. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD].
and put them at a loss in terms of their academic achievement, as well as their social, emotional, mental and physical health. Every year, students start the school year with
different levels of readiness Scholastic Team. (n.d.). Barriers to Equity in Education: Teacher & Principal School Report. Scholastic.
for grade-level work. Access to academic resources, family and community support, as well as an emphasis on equality rather than equity, only
widens the achievement gap. Ott, L. (2017). Solving the Achievement Gap through Equity, Not Equality [video]. TED.

What is needed for education to become more equitable?

OECD OECD Observer Staff. (2008). Ten Steps to Equity in Education [Policy Brief]. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD].
identifies three key areas that need to be addressed to achieve equity in education: (1) the design of education systems, (2) practices in and out of school, and (3) how resources are allocated. Considering each of these areas, the OECD has recommended
10 steps to equity in education: OECD Observer Staff. (2008). Ten Steps to Equity in Education [Policy Brief]. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD].

Design:

  1. Limit early tracking and streaming and postpone academic selection.
  2. Manage school choice so as to contain the risks to equity.
  3. In upper secondary education, provide attractive alternatives, remove dead ends, and prevent dropout.
  4. Offer second chances to gain from education.

Practices

  1. Identify and provide systematic help to those who fall behind at school and reduce year repetition.
  2. Strengthen the links between school and home to help disadvantaged parents help their children to learn.
  3. Respond to diversity and provide for the successful inclusion of migrants and minorities within mainstream education.

Resourcing

  1. Provide strong education for all, giving priority to early childhood provision and basic schooling.
  2. Direct resources to the students with the greatest needs.
  3. Set concrete targets for more equity, particularly related to low school attainment and dropouts.

Where can I learn more?

Equity vs. Equality in Education – Heath Morrison

Edutopia – Equity vs. Equality: 6 Steps Toward Equity

Edutopia – Fair Isn’t Equal: Seven Classroom Tips

Waterford.org – Why Understanding Equity vs. Equality in Schools Can Help You Create and Inclusive Classroom

The Teaching Space Podcast – Equality vs Equity in Education

TED-Ed Student Talks – Is equality enough?

What will students learn?

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to…

  • Recognize that although people look different on the outside, everyone is of equal value
  • Understand and explain the difference between equality and equity
  • Apply their understanding of equity to redefine fairness
  • Identify examples of fair and unfair treatment from their everyday life
References
Beecuz

Curwin, R. (2012, October 23). Fair Isn’t Equal: Seven Classroom Tips. Edutopia.

Dastjerdi, R., & Isfahani, R. (2011). Equity and economic growth, a theoretical and empirical study: MENA zone. Economic Modelling, 28(1-2), 694–700.

Gorard, S., & Smith, E. (2004). An international comparison of equity in education systems. Comparative Education, 40(1), 15–28.

OECD Observer Staff. (2008). Ten Steps to Equity in Education [Policy Brief]. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD].

Ott, L. (2017). Solving the Achievement Gap through Equity, Not Equality [video]. TED.

Putnam-Walkerly, K., & Russell, E. (2016, September 15). What the Heck Does ‘Equity’ Mean? Stanford Social Innovation Review.

Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario [RNAO]. (2013, July). Fairer Societies for Better HealthEquity.

Scholastic Team. (n.d.). Barriers to Equity in Education: Teacher & Principal School Report. Scholastic.

The Century Foundation. (2019, April 29). The Benefits of Socioeconomically and Racially Integrated Schools and Classrooms. TCF.

Waterford. (2019, May 2). Why Understanding Equity vs Equality in Schools Can Help You Create an Inclusive Classroom. Waterford.org.

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