Guiding Principles for Equity in Education
Part 1: Adopt an Equity Mindset
All students deserve the opportunity to thrive in a learning environment that suits their needs — that nurtures their strengths, acknowledges their individuality, and is dedicated to their success. All too often, students are denied the opportunity to grow in an environment that is designed for them and struggle to reach their potential in a system that does not prioritize their growth.
Educators and researchers often look to educational equity as a path to create a system that empowers all students to succeed. But understanding what equity means in the context of education, what it takes to achieve it, and its various complexities in application is a massive undertaking for any school or district.
We work from an understanding of equity derived from research by the Aspen Institute. We think of educational equity as the driving force behind ensuring that all students, everywhere, receive rigorous, rich educational experiences that are designed to meet their specific learning needs. Often juxtaposed with equality, equity implies some key differences. Here’s a helpful breakdown of the terms:
As a learning science company, we like to begin our work in any space by first reviewing what the existing and emerging research can tell us. When it comes to educational equity, the pool of relevant research is vast, because equity is so complex. Our applied learning sciences team wanted to create something from this research that could aid school and district leaders in crafting and implementing their equity initiatives. So, they created a research-based guide called Guiding Principles for Equity in Education.
This guide contains ten key principles for an educational equity framework, all derived from education research. Each principle has a list of actionable strategies for implementation. It’s written with district or school leaders in mind, and takes the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders into account. It’s of course important to note that no two equity initiatives will be the same, because every learning community has vastly different needs. Given that complexity, this document is not meant to indicate a one-size-fits-all approach, but to serve as a guidepost for leaders to review when thinking about the specific challenges and strengths of their community.
The guide is divided into three main parts. Here’s a preview of the first section.
Part One: Adopt an Equity Mindset
In this section, the authors review what a foundation for equity may look like in a community, and how various stakeholders may need to collaborate to kick-off an equity initiative.
The principles in part one are:
Commit: Recognize that equity is a journey that requires collaborative commitments.
Here’s a sample strategy from the commit principle:
Identify the student populations who are least adequately served by your system as it functions now, using a variety of observation and measurement tools. Commit to addressing the most pressing needs of those students under a universal equity goal of improving your educational systems for every learner (Chatmon & Watson, 2018).
Collaborate: Value and prioritize inclusive communication
Here’s a sample strategy from the collaborate principle:
Disrupt patterns of alienation or disempowerment among the families of underserved and/or marginalized student populations within the school by empowering them to become change agents, community-district partnership leaders, and valued advocates (Ishimaru, 2016).
Frame: Foster a culture that encourages self-reflection and new perspectives.
Here’s a sample strategy from the frame principle:
Frame equity through an intersectional lens, examining the various factors of a student’s identity and experiences that may contribute to their relationship with school, and the way these facets of their identity may impact their obstacles and needs. If possible, collect and analyze data that may help inform which factors have the greatest positive and negative impacts on student outcomes. When having conversations with families, be mindful of the ways that different worldviews can influence behaviors and conversations.
We hope that you find these principles and their supporting strategies useful as you continue with your equity work. Without passionate and dedicated educators like you, not even the simplest moments of growth and learning would be possible for any student.
For more on equity, see:
What’s the Difference Between Equity and Equality in Education?
Resources for a Deeper Understanding
The Link Between Equity in Education & Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)
By Maria Campanario, Educator & Consultant
4 Ways to Strive for Equity and Access in Your District
For many districts, conversations about equity and access have evolved beyond believing in and convincing others of the…
Chatmon, C. P., & Watson, V. M. (2018). Decolonizing School Systems: Racial Justice, Radical Healing, and Educational Equity inside Oakland Unified School District. Voices in Urban Education, 48, 7–12.
Ishimaru, A. (2014). Rewriting the rules of engagement: Elaborating a model of district-community collaboration. Harvard Educational Review, 84(2), 188–216.