“Flawed Approach to Achieving Educational Equity”

This is the concluding piece in a collection focused on getting educational equity right. Revisit the initial post along with discussions on school finance, student discipline, advanced education, school closures, homework, grading, and effective teaching.

Over the recent months, I’ve delved into the topic of “doing educational equity right.” Knowing that Eight Is Enough, it’s now time to wrap up. Let’s take a different approach and examine three instances where schools are missing the mark on educational equity:

  1. By succumbing to the subtle prejudice of low expectations.
  2. By limiting teachers’ authority without valid justification.
  3. By promoting the notion that equity is not just significant but the sole focus.


Using Equity as a Cover for Low Expectations

This series has emphasized the misguided practice of lowering student expectations in the name of “equity.” While schools and their stakeholders may not explicitly admit to expecting less from students, that is precisely the consequence.

One clear example relates to advanced education, where districts refuse to offer Algebra in middle school because not all students may be prepared. Fortunately, the pushback against this practice is gaining momentum.

Similarly, the argument that grading is inequitable, or homework assignments are unfair, due to lack of a quiet study environment, is flawed. Are we to believe that families cannot find suitable study spaces for their children? This approach undermines student responsibility and accountability.

Allowing students to submit late assignments without consequences or neglecting classroom discipline only encourages irresponsible behavior.

Schools need to maintain high standards for all students, regardless of external challenges. Permitting a decline in standards compromises student outcomes.


Restricting Teacher Autonomy

Another common misstep is undermining teachers’ authority without valid grounds. While educators should adhere to established academic standards, unnecessarily limiting their flexibility hampers effective teaching.

For instance, some districts prevent elementary teachers from grouping students by achievement in reading or math. These restrictions hinder personalized learning and impede student progress.

Mandating excessive constraints on teachers, such as prohibiting disciplinary actions for disruptive students or imposing minimum grades irrespective of effort, creates discontent among educators, compromising the learning environment.

Empowering teachers to make effective instructional decisions enhances student outcomes and ensures a conducive learning environment.


Is Equity the Sole Priority?

Lastly, some advocates prioritize equity to the exclusion of other crucial educational values. While equity is vital, neglecting excellence and efficiency is detrimental in the long run.

A balanced educational approach should prioritize excellence by catering to high-achieving students and fostering a culture of academic rigor. Striving for excellence does not conflict with achieving equity; in fact, mediocrity undermines both goals.

Additionally, efficiency in resource allocation is essential in maintaining a sustainable education system. Balancing equity with considerations of excellence and efficiency ensures optimal outcomes for all students.

Advocates must recognize the importance of a holistic approach to education that values equity alongside excellence and efficiency.


* * *

Promoting a comprehensive perspective on educational equity is essential to advancing our education system. By prioritizing positive outcomes, seeking practical solutions, and fostering collaboration, we can enhance educational equity and drive collective progress. Let’s strive to achieve educational equity effectively and inclusively!

Michael J. Petrilli is president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a visiting fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, and an executive editor of Education Next.

This article was initially published on the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog.

The post Doing Educational Equity Wrong appeared first on Education Next.

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