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What Research Can Tell Us About Educational Equity

Guiding Principles for Equity Part 2: Drive Your Equity Plan

As district and school leaders continue to increase their focus on transforming their learning communities to systems that provide equitable opportunities to all students, the research on educational equity also continues to expand. In an attempt to review and synthesize some of that research, our applied learning sciences team has authored a guide that we hope will be useful for district leaders looking to drive their equity initiatives.

The Guiding Principles for Equity in Education considers findings from existing and emerging research, and consists of ten core principles for equitable teaching and learning. The guide is written with district or school leaders in mind, but is applicable for any stakeholder looking to advocate for or engage in equity work.

The guide draws from research in a variety of fields that support equity work, and contains actionable strategies that educators can bring back to their schools and apply today.

In our last post, we reviewed the first three principles in part one of the document, Adopt an Equity Mindset. Today, we’re going to take part two of the guide, which dives deeper into the elements of teaching and learning necessary for an equitable environment.

Part Two: Drive Your Equity Vision

In this section, the authors assume that the foundation for and commitment to equity work has been established in a school, and it’s time for action. They take a look at just a few of the areas that research tells us are key for leaders to focus on during equity implementation.

The principles in part two are:

Nurture: Provide social and emotional supports to all students and staff.

Here’s a sample strategy from the nurture principle:

Whether selecting a new SEL program or evaluating the efficacy of a program you are already using, look for efficacy research to indicate the program’s effectiveness for a wide variety of student populations. Ideally, the program can be modified or is already adapted to be responsive to the full spectrum of student cultures (Castro-Olivo, 2014).

Empathize: Implement culturally responsive teaching practices.

Here’s a sample strategy from the empathize principle:

All stakeholders who interact with students should take care to adopt affirming attitudes towards diversity as opposed to promoting color-blindness (e.g. “not seeing” differences among individuals and groups), adopt asset framing rather than deficit framing, and value students for the contributions they bring to the classroom (Villegas & Lucas, 2002).

Build: Replace institutional inequities with innovative supports.

Here’s a sample strategy from the build principle:

Use technology, but wisely. Education technology has the potential to be a powerful driver for disrupting inequities. But research shows that the implementation of technology is just as pivotal as the tool itself. Social and cultural forces can derail good intentions, so be mindful of how culture intersects with access, and how the approach to technology can be an unseen barrier to combating inequities (Reich & Ito, 2017).

Challenge: Ensure that all students are held to high expectations.

Here’s a sample strategy from the challenge principle:

Critically examine current approaches to placement and instruction of traditionally underserved groups and identify any disconnects between levels of ability and rigor. Long Term English Learners, for example, are often excluded from rigorous learning because they have received no language development instruction, are inappropriately placed in mainstream instruction, or placed in newcomer programs indefinitely. As a result, these students often fall drastically behind in academic achievement (Olsen, 2010).

For more on equity, see:




Resources, ideas, and stories for PreK-12 educators. We focus on educational equity, social and emotional learning, and evidence-based teaching strategies. Be sure to check out The Art of Teaching Project, our guest blogging platform for all educators.

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McGraw Hill

McGraw Hill

Helping educators and students find their path to what’s possible. No matter where the starting point may be.

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