The term equity and equality are sometimes used interchangeably, but there are important distinctions between them. In education, understanding the difference between equity and equality helps us recognize and respond to issues of diversity, values, and social justice in the school(s) we serve. While they both seem very similar, I’ll discuss the similarities and differences between them.
In education, equity aims to promote fairness and justness, whereas equality is about equal sharing and exact division (Kumar, 2010). An example of equality would be distributing ten pairs of shoes size 6 in exact division to ten people. This is considered equality because everyone gets a pair and its equal division. Will all ten people have use for the size 6 shoe that is given to them? That depends on their size and needs. Some may have bigger feet or smaller than size 6. However, if all ten individuals receive the size that fits their size and needs then it’s equity.
In relation to education, equity and equality play a big part in schools. In simplicity, equality in education would be that teachers require all students to produce the same product after reading a grade level text of their choice. The product all students must accomplish is write a full entry page in their journal in response to their reading. This to some students may feel monotonous and uninteresting, but in terms of equality, all students are to produce the exact same thing. However, equity speaks in a different angle in this scenario. In requiring all students to produce the same outcome, some students may feel writing is not their strongest skill and have that be showcased. To give students choices is a beautiful thing, especially in the elementary grades because it empowers them. Giving students choices allows them to feel they are in charge of their own learning and in turn are accountable for what they chose to produce and how well the product is as a result. This is when differentiated instruction comes in. Laura Robb from Scholastics defines differentiated instruction as a “way to reach students with different learning styles, different abilities to absorb information and different ways of expressing what they have learned. Differentiation is a way of teaching; it’s not a program or package of worksheets. It asks teachers to know their students well so they can provide each one with experiences and tasks that will improve learning (Robb, 2014). By knowing the students and their strengths and weaknesses, teachers are able to adjust the task and make learning meaningful by allowing students to choose how they want to complete the task.
Administrators also emphasize equity in their schools. At its foundation, school leadership for equity is grounded in efficacy, action, and reflection. Productive action is an artifact of equitable practice that consists of high-leverage steps to improve outcomes for every student. Leaders for equity are educators who gracefully stand up and stand for others, demonstrate courage, and take risks to forge improvement. They are grounded by the confidence that they are doing the right thing. They participate in reflection on their practice in accord with others. Leaders for equity are focused on the significance of their work and are motivated by learning in action (TeachHub, 2014). Administrators are the backbone of the school and their support to teachers and the communities in which they serve are crucial. It becomes a collaborative effort in building equity in any school.
Kumar, M. (2010, January 12). Difference between equity and equality. Retrieved from http://www.differencebetween.net/language/difference-between-equity-and-equality/