Educational Inequity Explained

Mar 12, 2017 by

Every schools mission is to treat students from all backgrounds as equally valued and respected within the educational process.  School leaders need to clarify and make meaning of complex social situations in their schools.  As student diversity increases teachers and administrators are unprepared for school realities in the twenty first century. There are many ways to connect with teachers, curriculum and students to increase academic achievement.

The achievement gap is a major concern of every educator in any school environment. There is empirical proof that there are different levels of achievement among different minority groups. This study by OSU demystifies education by explaining the “benefits of desegregation for the academic achievement of minority students attending predominantly white schools.”  School leaders need to address these issues. It is the duty of every leader in education to do all they can to try to close the achievement gap, especially in this time of increased accountability. Educational leaders can help to close the education gap. They will need to accept that there is a problem and that they need to develop strategies to ensure that all students can fulfill their potential irrespective of their background or origin. A true leader will be able to confront the issues that are preventing people from fulfilling their potential.  This is an important first step, first realizing the issue, then accepting the fact that action needs to take place.

Multicultural Schools

Multicultural schools are both complex and heterogeneous institutions. To make the changes that will close the achievement gap it is essential that a leader investigate and get to know the exact nature of the achievement gap in the school. Every school is different and therefore a leader needs to take time to understand the specific factors that are preventing all students from fulfilling their potential, academically and otherwise. A good school or district leader needs to identify the factors that are causing disparities among various groups. They should concentrate on all the groups in their school, this includes gender, sexual orientation, race and class. Once the leader starts doing this. It becomes second nature to principals and superintendents as years’ progress.  The first few years it is hard because the school leader needs to get everyone on board with the vision that closing the achievement gap in their school is attainable. This is no easy task.

Once this has been done the leader needs to know what can they do. How can they effect the changes needed to end the disparities between groups and to make the school a more equitable place?  There are many things that are beyond the control of the leader such as historical and economic factors. However, a leader can do a lot to deal with the equity issues in their schools. There are two areas that are under the control of the leader, these are discussed here.

Providing High Quality Curriculum and Instruction

School leaders are entrusted by the community with ensuring that students receive the best education possible. One way that principals can make their schools a more equitable place is by providing students with a high-quality curriculum. The leader needs to ensure that the students are being taught the latest curriculum. The curriculum must be updated regularly. Children need to be taught a high-quality curriculum so that they are not disadvantaged compared to other students.

School leaders make sure that all the teachers are teaching the curriculum. This means providing the teachers with the resources to ensure that they are teaching to the latest curricular developments. A first class curriculum by itself will not lead to more equality. It must be taught in an exemplary manner. The curriculum must be taught to all students in ways that engage them and can take account of their level of abilities. A leader in a multicultural setting must inspire all the teachers so that they are committed to teach the curriculum in an engaging way. In this article teachers are encouraged to go deeper and engage students at different socio economic levels as well. Teachers ensure that all the students in class are treated the same and that none of them get left behind. Teachers through leadership guidance understand that they need to be vigilant in their classroom.

They must not only provide, quality instruction but they must be aware of any students that are not achieving at grade level. Leaders need to encourage teachers to be proactive in the classroom and take action that guarantees that students are progressing as they should. A leader must always be ready to intervene in a classroom if a teacher is not able to provide a learning environment where everyone can learn. This may take the form of simply reminding the teacher of their duty to teach daily valuable lessons in a way that ensures that all students benefit from their education.  One way that the achievement gap can be closed is if technology is used to help students to perform better in class.  A leader must be prepared to secure all the resources needed to close the achievement gap, including the latest technology. Leaders need to take action to ensure that teachers are providing the high level of instruction demanded in today’s world. Principals understand that inclusive classrooms make curricular content available for all learners, regardless of ability.

Measuring Success

A leader should always be ready to measure and gauge if their school is one where all students irrespective of their background can succeed and have the best education available. It is not acceptable to merely implement strategies that are recommended for making classrooms more equitable. A good curriculum and a high level of instruction is not enough. The progress of the school in tackling equity issues needed to be monitored all the time. A system for measuring the progress of the school should to be implemented. This can be done in a formal and an informal way. It is very important that a school leader can review school data about the academic achievement of students. They need to ensure that there are no disparities among students. This would indicate that there are equity issues in a school. The leader in a multicultural setting must informally monitor the progress of the students. They must be aware if there are any problems in the school that are not represented in the statistics. There are things that may be occurring that are helping to maintain and enforce the achievement gap.

School leaders may have to intervene to ensure that students from different backgrounds can collaborate in class. A leader must be aware of impediments that prevent students from learning every day. Barriers need to be reviewed and removed if a learning environment is to provide the educational needs of every student irrespective of their background. It is important to acknowledge that even if progress is made in the classroom about equity issues, that a leader must seek continuous improvement about the ‘achievement gap’.

Keywords: Achievement Gap, Leadership, measurement, instruction, curriculum, educational inequity, multicultural education,

Comment Below on: What are practical ways that school leaders can help to close the ‘achievement gap’?

References

Billings, Gloria. (1994). What We Can Learn from Multicultural Education Research. Association of Curriculum and Development.  51 (8), pp 6-10. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may94/vol51/num08/What-We-Can-Learn-from-Multicultural-Education-Research.aspx

Children’s Defense. (January, 2004) Educational Resource Disparities For Minority & Low-Income Children. Children’s Defense. Retrieved from: http://www.childrensdefense.org/library/data/resource_disparities.pdf

Franklin, John (2005) Promoting Diverse Leadership Managing the Multicultural Classroom Effective Learning Communities Are Built on Understanding (47) 5, pp 1-2. Retrieved from: http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education-update/may05/vol47/num05/Managing-the-Multicultural-Classroom.aspx

Hallinan, M. T. (1998). Diversity Effects on Student Outcomes: Social Science Evidence Ohio State Law Journal, vol. 59, no. 3 (1998), 733-754. Retrieved from: http://kb.osu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/1811/64961/OSLJ_V59N3_0733.pdf

Hozien, W. (February 25, 2017). Achievement Gap Explained. Education News. Retrieved from: http://www.educationviews.org/achievement-gap-explained/

Meeuwse, Krist.  (2016). Closing the Achievement Gap Using Ipads. The Education Advocate.  Retrieved from: http://www.theedadvocate.org/closing-the-achievement-gap-using-ipads/

Nieto, Sonia. (2002). Equity and Opportunity Profoundly Multicultural Questions. Association of Curriculum and Development.  (60). 4, pp 6-10 Retrieved from:  http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/dec02/vol60/num04/Profoundly-Multicultural-Questions.aspx

Southern Poverty Law Center. (2017). Engaging Curriculum. Teaching Tolerance. Retrieved from: http://www.tolerance.org/supplement/engaging-curriculum

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