I never thought I’d say it, but I’m tired of hearing the word equity. The word equity has become so overused to the point where it lacks significance. It is most often being used as a superficial signal of commitment to equity, rather than an actual commitment. The equity trend runs the risk of reducing the concept of equity to mere rhetoric, lacking in substantial impact or real-world application. When it comes to creating real change, educators often fail to follow through on creating and committing to real change, instead getting bogged down by challenges.
Here are 10 ways to go beyond reducing equity to rhetoric and actually creating an inclusive and equitable school environment.
1. Curriculum Inclusivity: Develop and adopt a curriculum that reflects a diverse range of perspectives. This includes incorporating books, materials, and lessons that represent various cultures, histories, and experiences. The goal is to ensure all students see themselves represented in their education.
2. Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT): Train teachers in culturally responsive teaching methods. This approach recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning. It helps teachers to better engage students from diverse backgrounds. A great resource all educators should have related to CRT is “ Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain” by Zaretta Hammond.
3. Equitable Access to Resources: Ensure all students have equal access to school resources. This includes technology, extracurricular activities, advanced courses, and support services. Schools should actively work to eliminate barriers that prevent students from low-income families or underrepresented backgrounds from accessing these resources. Equitable access can be across your school building or throughout your school district. Do some schools have access to more materials, do some subjects receive more materials, etc.
4. Safe and Inclusive Environment: Foster a school culture that is respectful and inclusive. This involves anti-bullying policies, support for LGBTQ+ students, and programs that promote understanding and respect for different cultures and backgrounds.
5. Addressing Learning Gaps: Identify and address learning gaps, particularly for students from marginalized communities. Implementing targeted interventions and support services can help ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed.
6. Student Voice and Agency: Encourage student participation in decision-making processes. This includes forming diverse student councils and committees that can provide input on school policies and practices.
7. Professional Development: Offer ongoing professional development for staff on equity and inclusion topics. This should include training on unconscious bias, culturally relevant pedagogy, and strategies for creating an inclusive classroom environment.
8. Family and Community Engagement: Actively engage with families and the community. Schools should strive to build partnerships with parents and community organizations, especially in underserved areas, to better understand and meet the needs of their students.
9. Data-Driven Decision Making: Use data to inform equity efforts. Regularly collecting and analyzing data on student achievement, discipline, attendance, and participation in programs can help identify areas of inequity and guide interventions.
10. Mental Health Support: Provide robust mental health support to all students, recognizing that emotional and psychological well-being is crucial for academic success and personal development.
In closing, while the term ‘equity’ may have become diluted in its overuse, the concept itself remains vital to education. Schools must commit to going beyond lip service, actively implementing strategies like curriculum inclusivity and culturally responsive teaching. By doing so, they can ensure equity is not just a buzzword but a living, breathing part of every student’s educational experience. It’s about turning good intentions into effective actions that foster real change.
The ten strategies outlined—from inclusive curricula to mental health support—provide a roadmap for educators to create genuinely inclusive and equitable school environments. It’s about bridging the gap between intent and implementation, ensuring that every student benefits from a system that truly values diversity and inclusivity at its core.
If you’re a school leader excited to transcend the mere rhetoric of equity and genuinely embrace equitable practices, we warmly invite you to connect with the Buckeye Community Hope Foundation. Our dedicated team is enthusiastic about partnering with you to ensure that your educational strategies and practices are thoroughly aligned with the core principles of equity. At Buckeye, we believe in collaborative efforts to foster inclusive, fair, and diverse educational environments, and we’re committed to guiding and supporting you every step of the way in this vital endeavor.