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Steps in Achieving Equity in Classrooms

Steps in Achieving Equity in Classrooms

26 April, 2016

Equality vs. Equity

If equality means providing everyone the same resourcesequity means giving each student access to the resources they need to learn and thrive. Parents know that each child is different.

It can be challenging to meet their competing needs, but this is pretty much the job description for parenting and for teaching.

If teachers are committed to the success of every child, they must accept the uneven playing field that exists for many: ELLs, students with special needs, children experiencing trauma or relentless poverty, and students of color who confront unconscious biases about their capacity. Walking toward equity will help teachers to create inclusive, 21st-century classrooms.

Here are the steps:

  1. Know every child.

First and foremost, get to know each student as a unique and layered individual. Embrace storientation to learn where they’re from, what they love to do outside of school, what their family is like. Don’t subscribe to a single story about any child. The more you know, the more you can establish trust and differentiate instruction.

  1. Become a warm demander.

Author Lisa Delpit defines warm demanders as teachers who “expect a great deal of their students, convince them of their own brilliance, and help them to reach their potential in a disciplined and structured environment.” An equity stance pushes us to couple high expectations with a commitment to every child’s success.

  1. Practice lean-in assessment.

As a student’s human story is gathered, start to piece together his or her learning story:

How does she approach tasks?

What are his strengths as a learner?

What does she struggle with?

No standardized test will give quality data on these questions. Use proximity and lean-in assessment to diagnose students’ learning needs. Carry a clipboard while students are working, and take careful notes on what is observed.

  1. Flex your routines.

Remember that one-size lessons do not fit all. Be willing to flex or set aside well-laid plans to personalize instruction. If pulling a student out of an activity to support him or her is uncomfortable, notice the discomfort and try not to let it control your decisions.

  1. Make it safe to fail.

Teach students that failing is just another form of data. When a child feels shame about his learning gaps, he’ll hide behind quiet compliance or bravado and acting out. In an equitable classroom, there’s no need to hide, because struggle and failure are neutralized, normalized, and even celebrated. Consider this: once a week, have students meet in groups to share something they are having difficulties with and what they learned in the process.

  1. View culture as a resource.

Finally, don’t be culture-blind. When students’ identities are ignored, those who they are in the world are effaced and lose a rich resource for learning. Understand this simple, powerful truth offered by my friend Zaretta Hammond in her recent book Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: “Culture, it turns out, is the way every brain makes sense of the world.” Assist students activate their cultural schema to access challenging content. Encourage them to share where they come from, not just with you, but also with each other. Value and affirm all forms of difference.