By Kelsey Remeis, CEI Intern This is the fourth part of the special series Equity in Education. During this time when racial justice and equity is in the spotlight and as we are reminded that segregation is a growing concern, we begin to educate and bring awareness to how, as a whole, the way boundaries have been established for schools and districts are sometimes barriers to equity and justice (Vox, 2018). The terms in which we define justice can alter our perception and its relevance. The Forum of Youth Investment’s Karen Pittman and National Urban League’s Hal Smith came together last fall to discuss the importance of re-defining education in the efforts to achieve equity and excellence.
Equity in Education
The idea of education equity focuses on how we are able to increase learning through accessibility in all populations. By creating these standards of accessibility, schools are able to captivate a more efficient environment that promotes success in all students, ultimately instilling a sense of confidence that is typically unavailable to students from some backgrounds (AIR, 2019). Beginning to raise awareness in education equity benefits more than a select group. Creating this awareness brings in funding and benefits that work to help in the growth of the entire community. As Hal Smith explains during his webinar, with bringing equity to education there is predictive power that leads to expanding opportunities and cultivating a supportive learning environment.
Moving Towards Equity
As a key contributor of the National Urban League (NUL), Hal Smith shares his knowledge of the organization’s various areas of expertise in an effort to promote achievement in education throughout local communities. Being a historic civil rights organization, NUL’s focus lies in the advancement of African American achievement, opportunities, and equity through various programs geared to each individual’s needs. The NUL works through a case management system with local schools and districts. The benefits of this approach show the complexity of each individual’s situation, the growth that occurs from working with NUL, and also offers a bigger look at the community, as they are able to see the patterns and how they have influenced national trends.
Indicators to Make a Difference
Through the collaborative work of the Forum for Youth Investments—a platform committed to providing services, networks, and resources to leaders in order to ensure the success of our youth—and NUL, Pittman and Smith were able to highlight objectives that focus on defining education and truly analyzing how to remove barriers. This approach was especially prevalent in states with the fewest excellence marks regarding students’ grades, attendance, and behavior. They looked to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to inform conversations and to share data and other findings.
The NUL’s areas of focus that play a major role in defining education and creating equity in education are:
Fairness. Place an emphasis on supporting students through resources and create opportunities that promote success, which should be available to each and every student, regardless of their zip code.
Investment. Begin to educate the community. Empower teachers, students, and parents to show that their role on this stage is meaningful. With commitment and a vision, the community can come together to invest in students in order for them to succeed in all aspects.
Promise. Prepare students for the next stages in life and the real world. It is important to set high academic standards, regardless of where students come from, as students will be more apt to stick with their studies and eventually head to college and the workforce when they know it’s expected of them.
Advancement. Offer students the assets they need to be successful.
Measurement. Inform communities about assessment, from the start and with transparency, so that change occurs. This allows for growth to be observed, increases a program’s success, and decreases risky behaviors of teens.
Opportunity. Place an emphasis on the time spent outside of school. It is important to continue learning outside of the classroom with various after-school programs and summer learning.
Fulfillment. Encourage your students and stay set on the focus of the goal of college graduation and entering the workforce. Offer support and resources to help keep students motivated and make their dreams more attainable.
With many things to think about when it comes to the success of our students, it is important to keep in mind that children have the capacity to learn and grow with whatever surrounds them (NUL, 2019). It is important to continue supporting and focusing on these 7 areas for equity in education.
Equity is an ongoing conversation that remains important and relevant, more so now than ever with the recent COVID-19 pandemic and calls for racial justice around the globe. To continue providing awareness, there must be an open dialogue about all types of learning. The more that educators are continuing to learn and teach, the more our children will be positively influenced. COVID-19 put a “magnifying glass” on the ongoing issues that have lingered in the educational systems for decades. People from backgrounds of all kinds have begun to come together to bring change in these uncertain times and ensure that education is still a top priority. Companies like PCs for People and EveryOn have generously provided computers for those who are unable to afford them during a shift to an entirely virtual workspace (Simmons, 2020). COVID-19 has provided us with a wakeup call to the unbalance that is within our educational system and the changes that needed to be made. By continuing the conversation and working together to create more equal opportunities, each child will be set up for success in their classrooms, despite their backgrounds.
National Urban League (2019). Standards of equity & excellence: A lens on ESSA state plans. The Forum for Youth Investment News.
National Urban League (2019). The Equity & Excellence Project.
Simmons, D. (2020). Why COVID-19 is our equity check. A New Reality: Getting Remote Learning Right, 51–53.
The Forum for Youth Investment (2019). Moving towards equity: A conversation with Hal Smith. Webinar.
Vox (2018). The data proves that school segregation is getting worse. Article.