Equity means providing resources, not just equally, but adequately for all children to succeed. There is no ‘one size fits all’ curriculum. Yet, there is a tension between providing opportunity for all students, regardless of their backgrounds, and the efficient allocation of limited resources. School choice was supposed to give better options, but too often, the choices are no different and ineffective.
The Citizens for Strong Schools lawsuit in Florida is about equity, but this is also a national issue. I found a blue ribbon panel report that addresses equity and provides direction for educational policy.
In time, Florida may be required to focus on these six directions. They give us a vision of what could be.
The report from the Equity and Access Commission: A Report to the Secretary For Each and Every Child outlined challenges and goals for American education. The implementation of these recommendations by the U.S. Department of Education falls short. These six goals, however, are within our reach.
Inequity in Spending Within and Across States
Most states should restructure their educational finance systems due to:
- too much reliance on property taxes,
- too much variation. Per student funding ranges from $6,454 in Utah to $18,167 in NY; California districts range from $6,032 to $18,025; there is gap between low poverty and high poverty schools within districts.
States must provide adequate funding for ELL, disabilities, academic and other needs of low income students. The report recommends that the federal government require adequate and equitable financial systems, and it should use civil rights powers to reduce the number of schools with concentrated poverty and to review how Title I funding is used within school districts.
A Need to Improve the Quality of Instruction
The quality of teachers and administrators varies greatly within and across districts. States need to:
- attract top talent,
- improve the quality of teacher preparation programs,
- address teacher pay gap
- support and retain teachers with professional development, collaboration, additional time, resources including technology, and better teacher evaluations.
The recommendations include a uniform entry bar for teachers, teacher quality index, better observation systems, equitable access within and across districts for quality teachers and data to monitor it. The federal government should invest in programs to train teachers for high need areas and provide scholarships for prospective teachers.
Access to High Quality Curriculum: There is an over identification of students into special education or remediation programs without higher order skill development. Many of these programs have lower rigor, focus on basic decoding skills rather than on comprehension, lack access to advanced courses or gifted courses, and rely on increased suspensions and expulsions.
Expand and Improve Early Childhood Education: The federal government should:
- provide a funding match for students in poverty
- expand and coordinate preK programs
Support Services: Federal support for at risk schools should include:
- parental involvement programs including adult language learning and teacher training
- health and social services
- extended instructional time and support for at risk students
Accountability and Governance. Policy should:
- promote racially and socioeconomically diverse schools
- assist such schools, and invest in research based studies and dissemination
- intervene when districts do not represent interests of all children,
- require oversight boards and hold elections during general elections to increase representation
- expand the size of districts in order to have more resources
- review impact of charters on access and equity
- redesign accountability to include equity and access to opportunities and resources in addition to achievement outcomes
- expand accountability to include: teachers, schools, districts, state and federal policy makers
- use multiple measures for all student levels including support and consequences