Social Equity and Justice in Education

Finding answers to social equity and justice in education starts with asking the tough questions.

The equal right to a high-quality education is one of the defining beliefs of our educational system and even part of how many describe the American Dream. Yet equal rights do not always result in equal access and in our current political and socio-economic climate, the achievement gap is undoubtedly growing. The question today lingers: how can educators create an environment where all students can succeed?

Paving the way to a level playing field.

Research shows that a quality education helps level the playing field for disadvantaged youth. Unfortunately, those most in need often lack access to the core elements of a quality education. According to a Department of Education Study, 45% of high-poverty schools received, on average, less state and local funding than other more affluent schools in their area. But funding is only part of the story.

Lack of achievement for any student and the achievement gaps seen between subgroups of students can be linked to a number of factors that run the gamut from institutional and internal systemic issues, to social, and even public health concerns characteristic to those in marginalized populations.

In all of these areas, you’ll find issues of inequity and injustice.

Christopher Gaines, the president of AASA, the School Superintendents association, a professional organization that advocates for equitable access for all students and supports school system leaders, explains, “Our schools are not immune from the inequities and injustice that plague other public systems. In fact, they reflect them.” Continuing, “People of color, people living in poverty, and immigrant populations all face inequitable access and outcomes.”

Race and socioeconomic status cannot be ignored. For example, the American Psychological Association reports that even high-achieving African American students face challenges because they are disproportionately exposed to less rigorous curriculums, attend schools with fewer resources, and have teachers who expect less of them academically. Moreover, findings from the National Assessment Governing Board and National Center for Education Statistics’ 2017 National Assessment of Education Progress revealed that income-based achievement gaps continue to widen, reflecting the greater overall environment of income inequality.

The question remains, ‘How do we enhance achievement for all students?’ “This is the question that keeps school superintendents up at night,” Gaines admits. “Our members around the country work ceaselessly to seek out solutions that will bring a quality education to every student in our nation. We’re cognizant of the fact that they need our help–particularly marginalized students: children in poverty, children of color, and those from non-English speaking homes.”

It’s one of the complex issues Gaines says AASA will examine carefully at its National Conference on Education held February 2019 in Los Angeles. The annual event gathers school superintendents and other education professionals for seminars, keynotes, panels, and discussions on the key issues they face every day. This year, attendees will explore the theme “Effective Leadership Creates Success” and one hot button issue sure to be discussed is how race and economic status impact educational policy, practice and outcomes.

To learn more about the National Conference on Education and register to attend, visit the AASA National Conference on Education website.

U.S. Department of Education Discusses Equity of Opportunity
Brown Center Chalkboard Looks at Progress on Achievement Gaps
American Psychological Association Discusses Ethnic and Racial Minorities & Socioeconomic Status