Equity in Education: Giving Every Student the Chance to Improve

The topic of equity in education continues to get a lot of attention, especially as educators and school districts wrestle with the best ways to provide equitable learning experiences for all students. It’s an important debate because, despite everyone’s best intentions to deliver the highest quality educational opportunities possible, significant gaps still remain, especially for less-advantaged students.

In this post, we zero in on the concept of measurement and how it can help drive improvement for all students.

Education Equity

The passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) attempts to resolve the inequities, both to encourage new ways to design better education systems, and in doing so, deliver more equitable learning opportunities. More specifically, ESSA contains several provisions that can be used to advance equity and excellence for students of color, low-income students, those learning English, and students with disabilities, among others.

The ESSA provisions fall into four major areas: higher-order skills, multiple measures to assess schools, resource equity and equity strategies and evidence-based interventions.

  1. Higher-order skills for all students: In this provision, ESSA calls for states to redesign their education systems to best represent 21st century learning. States are required to create new standards and assessments focused on developing higher-order thinking skills for children as well as providing related resources for professional learning.
  2. Multiple measures to assess school performance and progress: ESSA also requires the use of multiple measures of accountability. For example, states must now evaluate student and school progress beyond traditional metrics such as test-score gains or graduation rates and must now include one or more indicators of “school quality” or “student success.”
  3. Resource equity: Here, ESSA attempts to directly address the resource gaps that currently exist in our public schools. In this category, even more provisions require states to focus on equity by highlighting per-pupil spending amounts on district report cards and taking steps to resolve resource inequities for those schools identified as needing intervention assistance.
  4. Equity strategies and evidence-based interventions: In this fourth provision, states and districts are required to implement evidence-based interventions for schools identified for improvement, a step that encourages them to determine the best data-driven approaches for their schools and students.

While these provisions do offer an essential framework to providing equitable education, how to achieve this goal is not always clear. In other words, what can teachers and administrators do to think about equity in new ways and enhance their ability to promote equitable learning opportunities?

A new mindset leads to improved outcomes

While the K-12 education system has embraced personalized learning approaches that foster educational equity, we suggest taking a moment to consider the concept of measurement as a means to achieving student improvement in a way that promotes equity.

The idea of measurement—whether in a classroom setting or in other areas of our lives—is, by definition, a necessary step toward improvement.

As adults, in both our personal and professional lives, we encounter a range of situations where measurement yields information, which stimulates improvement over time. But we don’t just measure: we evaluate results and then take action to achieve a better result.

In the life of a student, improvement happens over the course of a class period, a school year or even across a student’s primary and secondary education. The thoughtful consideration of periodic measurements—and the insights that can be gleaned from measurement—allow educators to make instructional choices that both promote equity, but just as important, lead to student improvement.

Smarter measurement fosters educational equity

It may seem simple, but it’s been difficult for the public education sector to put this principle fully into practice: measurement informs improvement. Further, measurement—alone—neither supports educational equity, nor does it effect positive change.

When the idea of smarter measurement is optimally applied, teachers will have access to reliable measurements of student mastery—ideally multiple measurements—mainly gathered through assessment and observation. Teachers can then use valid and timely data in a way that is intuitive and visual, to understand students’ learning strengths and deficits.

Generally speaking, teachers who have the right tools to provide equitable education experiences are truly able to help their students improve.

The winning combination

For students to benefit from the “measurement informs improvement” equation, there are three keys:

  1. Making sure that assessments measure students’ mastery of concepts that have been taught;
  2. Ensuring the right data is available to teachers in a format that is useful; and
  3. Giving teachers the skills they need to use this information in the most productive way.

To achieve these benefits, Certica offers a powerful combination of predictive benchmark assessments, high-quality formative assessment content and teacher-ready analytics to guide instruction, develop effective interventions and shape personalized learning approaches. We also help coach educators to use data effectively in the classroom to maximize success.

All of this enables teachers to give all students the chance to improve, which is the essence of what educational equity is about.