Educational Equity – Part 1 – What Is Educational Equity

While there’s never a shortage of hot topics in the world of education, perhaps the hottest topic to gain traction over the last few years is educational equity. Teachers and administrators have long known that equity is a huge contributing factor when it comes to high school graduation rates and the success of an individual after high school. However, the entire world began to take notice of just how important equity is when schools started shutting down during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To understand educational equity, it’s important to know what educational equality is first, how it became law in the United States, and how equality is a foundational step towards reaching equity.

Educational Equality

So what is educational equality exactly?  Educational equality basically means that all students in this country are treated equally and that they have equal access to educational resources similar to those of their peers.

In other words, any student in the United States must be treated fairly by teachers, administrators, and staff regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.  And, all students must have access to highly qualified teachers and a high-quality curriculum.

There have been several Supreme Court rulings and pieces of legislation that have guaranteed educational equality in our schools:

  • In 1954, Brown v. Board of Education declared that racial segregation in schools was unconstitutional.
  • In 1964, the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in schools based on race, gender, and religion.
  • In 1974, the Equal Educational Opportunities Act declared that all students are entitled to an equal educational opportunity without regard to race, color, sex, or national origin, It further declared that students should attend schools within their neighborhoods and that school districts should take action to overcome language barriers.
  • In 1990, the Americans With Disabilities Act addressed discrimination against students with disabilities.

With educational equality identified, the next question is: do all students get equal treatment and equal resources in school so all students have the same likelihood of success after high school? The answer to that question is a resounding no.

This is where educational equity comes into play.


Educational Equity

Educational equity means all students have access to the resources they need to graduate with the right preparation for success after high school. 

While having equal treatment and equal resources is a foundational step towards success during and after high school, some students need additional resources to help them succeed.

Because no two students are created exactly the same, the need to access different resources will vary. Even if they attend the same school in the same city, certain students are much more likely to succeed academically, graduate on time, and find success after high school graduation. Other students are challenged while in school and continue to be challenged after graduation.  Success does not come easy for everyone and the amount of work to “make it” is often overwhelming for some students.

Race and socioeconomic status are huge contributing factors when it comes to educational equity.  This is why all teachers and administrators need to understand educational equity and build a strategy within every classroom to ensure students are provided with access, resources and equitable treatment in school.