Saturday, June 27, 2015

Equality vs. Equity

Education often focuses on how resources are distributed. The idea of distributing resources based on equality vs. equity is controversial depending on what side of the scale an individual or school lands.  Equality is dividing the pie so everyone gets equal pieces.  Equity is dividing the pie based on need.   To illustrate the premise of equality vs. equity, let’s look at special education. Some districts operate their own SELPA departments. SELPA’s responsibility is to assess and provide services to students based on individual student’s disabilities and needs through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for SELPA’s to have a one-size-fits-all approach to providing supports and services to students with disabilities. For example, a one-size-fits-all approach could be every student with an IEP receives 60 minutes a week of resource services (one-on-one assistance with academics). Every student receiving the same supports and services is an example of equality.   On the contrary, equity would require that if an 8th grade student is reading at a 1st grade level that she would receive more resource services, perhaps 180 minutes, because her deficit is greater.

How resources are divided has a direct impact on student learning.  If we are not cautious and intentional in how resources are divided, we risk the chance of widening the achievement gap instead of closing it.   The achievement gap is evident in districts when School A is in need of all remedial core classes in the master schedule, with little to no AP options for students; while School B has no remedial sections, and invests heavily in accelerated and AP courses in the master schedule.  Yet, each school gets equal portions of funding.  The achievement gap and resource distribution are not mutually exclusive conversations.  These two variables have an inverse relationship, as one increases, the other decreases.  Unfortunately, typically resources decrease and the gap increases.  However, in this post-LCAP era, we have an opportunity to get it right for our students.  LCAP attempts to provide more resources to districts with high concentrations of students with high-risk factors.  If funds are allocated properly in the LCAP, the students with the greatest needs will finally get the support to which they are entitled.  In short, to close the achievement gap, we must fund schools based on equity, not equality. We must be intentional in our efforts and expect outcomes.   And lastly, we must be disgusted and disturbed by the achievement gap. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Key

I have decided to write this blog as a therapeutic process, as well as to use it as a soapbox for those things about which I am passionate.  I hope this blog helps to transform the minds of individuals from focusing on the problem to focusing on the solution.  Although I hope the average individual gets something from this blog, I am intentional in its content and hopeful to impact the thought process of educators.  By educators, I do not only refer to teachers, but each person that works in the public education system; and, if I am honest with myself, also recognizing each person who has accepted the responsibility of educating young people even outside the education system.

That being said, I truly believe that education is the key that unlocks the doors of opportunity. The "key" is being distributed every day on school campus across the world.  The reality is some students receive "master" keys and some students receive "restricted" keys.  Master keys allow access through several doors with one single key.  Whereas, a restricted key has restrictions: who can obtain a copy, how many may be made, and who may issue copies.  As educators, we must ask questions of the system in which we are dedicated.  We must ask of ourselves, what is our purpose in the educational system.  Is our purpose to have means to live and provide for our families (paycheck)? Is our purpose solely to deliver instruction, without concerns for results (compliance)? Or, is our purpose to positively impact the lives of young people by positively impacting the system that services them (outcomes)? Some may say, their purpose is all three.  To that, I reply, "Great!"  However, I have worked in education long enough to know that there are some that are only there for a paycheck, or a paycheck and compliance.  Although, I have been extremely blessed to have worked with individuals that share my passion and purpose: a passion to support young people in order that they experience success; and a purpose to positively impact the system that hands out the keys to success. 

In my professional opinion, the problem in education is the focus on the problem.  We know there is an achievement gap.  I have read several expository writings on the gap.  I can see the gap in my day-to-day dealings at work. We know English Language Learners are not performing at grade level. We know poverty has an impact on student readiness.  We know we need to focus on student learning, not just teacher compliance.  We know there is a lack of accountability.  These are problems.  I have attended meetings where three-fourths of the discussion was on the problem, and a mere one-fourth to discuss short-term and long-term solutions.  This is a poor use time, resources and brainpower.  As leaders, it is important to stay solution-focused, be innovative, recognize the strengths of those on your team, and remember the students are the most important individuals on campus.  They are our customers.  The system is only successful if each student is successful.  Leaders cannot become complacent, discouraged, or weary. Remember, education is the key that unlocks the doors of opportunity.  We must ensure each student receives a master key.