Gateway High School’s leadership team is always looking for new ways to help our students strive for a better overall experience during their educational journey. Understanding the difference between equality and equity is a logical starting point when co-creating a learning environment that values every student equally and is accessible by all.
What is Equality?
Equality is a simple, straightforward concept that most people understand today. In the context of education, it means that each student is treated in an identical manner, regardless of their cultural background, their existing disadvantages, and their learning style. At first glance, equality might sound like the fairest option. After all, shouldn’t everyone be treated the same way?
While this is a noble and democratic notion, researchers have discovered that equality does not always lead to the best results in an educational setting. This is because some students might not have access to the same level of resources compared to others. For example, some students may not even have access to a computer or the internet at home due to their lack of available resources. This issue has been compounded during the current coronavirus pandemic — especially with large families all working and studying from home. If internet is available, bandwidth and data may be limited as well as computers to work from.
Additional barriers may include factors based on gender, race, income, lack of healthcare, and having English as a second language. To ensure that these barriers are overcome, it does not make sense to treat every student equally – even though this might seem like the fairest approach at face value. Gateway needs to take a holistic approach and look and each student’s unique situation to determine the best approach that will give that student an equal chance at succeeding during high school.
What is Equity?
Gateway High School is also focused on promoting equity. In contrast to equality, equity represents an approach that takes the needs of each individual student into account. When teachers implement strategies based on equity, they can provide students with a customized learning experience that helps them achieve higher levels of performance. Because this approach takes various factors into account such as race, income levels, and gender, a classroom based around equity is also inherently fairer.
As a proudly diverse educational institution, Gateway High School can benefit tremendously from initiatives aimed at promoting equity. The more diverse a classroom is, the more effective equity can be. When a classroom is filled with students of many different backgrounds and unique needs, an equitable approach can result in many notable benefits.
Aside from simply giving students the customized resources they need to reach their full potential in an academic setting, equity can also promote better mental and emotional well-being. One study found that higher levels of equity combined with diversity can lead to lower levels of bullying and a greater sense of harmony within a student population.
The Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) recognizes the lack of equity and awareness in many public schools across the state. It aims to educate the next generation of teachers to be cognizant of this in their teaching methods – and provide current teachers with resources that help “erase equity gaps in the classroom.”
Despite Colorado’s high graduation rates, the CDHE has found that “although Colorado enjoys one of the highest education attainment rates nationally, the share of the white majority population that has earned a credential is more than twice that of our fastest-growing group—Latinx and Hispanic Coloradans—and more than 1.5 times the share of African American, Black and American Indian Coloradans.” The CDHE provides a toolkit that helps current administrators and teachers better understand – and implement – equitable classroom instruction.
Planning for a Future Society
It is also important to recognize the potential effect of educational equity on our entire society. Gateway High School considers itself a training ground for future community cooperation. In many ways, high schools are microcosms of the future societies we will inhabit. Promoting equity means that high school students will take their experiences to their families, workplaces, and communities.
With a growing level of diversity in the United States, promoting equity has never been more important. While the equitable process may begin in a student’s high school classroom, the benefits can extend throughout the rest of their lives. At Gateway High School, we can make lasting changes as we encourage students to not only strive for academic excellence, but also contribute to healthy, harmonious communities.