18 December 2006

Equity in Education

From the Cincinnati Enquirer:

"Little progress noted on education law goals" was the headline of an article in the Nov. 20 Enquirer. The article states that the gaps between African-Americans and whites are showing very few signs of closing.

The gap is only between children who have good early childhood experiences and those who lack this experience. Equity begins at the moment of conception. The mother who eats right and stays away from drugs has an advantage of producing a healthy child. The mother who smokes, takes other drugs, and does not get the right nutrition may produce a child who at birth is at a disadvantage.

Equity means that both children had the same advantage from the moment of conception.

Children in a language-rich environment, from the moment of birth, come to our schools ready for the challenges we present to him. Children without this experience are not given the opportunity to catch up because of the "No Child Left Behind" law.

Equity means giving each child what he needs. It means moving each child ahead and presenting new challenges to make his education experience a successful one. There will be gaps, not because of the color of the skin, but because children do not get what they need at home.

There will be gaps because teachers have to treat every kindergarten child as if they all came in with the same skills.

There will be gaps because good education practices are set aside, recess is abandoned, art and music are not important, and getting ready to take many tests is nothing but drill work without understanding.

There is a gap between what research tells us about developmentally appropriate practices and what educators are allowed to do for children.

There is no equity because equity does not mean that we treat all children the same - it means that we give each child what he needs.

I don't agree with this view of "equity in education." It's really not about what kids come in with---we know that every one of them is different. It's about not using those factors to deny access to opportunities when kids are at school. To me, it isn't equitable that only white and asian kids take AP Chem in our district. It isn't equitable that students from low-income backgrounds generally perform worse on tests of basic skills than other students. NCLB, for all of its faults, is the reason schools are now so concerned about equity. Students are definitely given the chance to "catch up."

What the author seems to talking about in the article is really differentiation in the classroom, not equity. Differentiation includes the ideas of readiness and engaging instruction. It also appears that she doesn't believe that all kids can achieve because of differences that begin with conception---something I find rather disturbing to hear from another teacher. Not every child will have the same ultimate goals, but they should all be able to have the same basic tools to apply to wherever their dreams lead. That seems equitable to me.

No comments: