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.