Equity in education

“Equity is a verb, it requires action.”

The Merriam Webster Dictionary’s definition of “equity” is “the quality of being fair and impartial.” Equity in education has two dimensions. The first is fairness, which basically means making sure that personal and social circumstances – for example gender, socioeconomic status or ethnic origin – should not be an obstacle to achieving educational potential.

The second is inclusion, in other words ensuring a basic minimum standard of education for all – for example that everyone should be able to read, write and do simple arithmetic. The two dimensions are closely intertwined: tackling school failure helps to overcome the effects of social deprivation which often causes school failure.

Equity in education requires putting systems in place to ensure that every child has an equal chance for success. That requires understanding the unique challenges and barriers faced by individual students or by populations of students and providing additional supports to help them overcome those barriers. While this in itself may not ensure equal outcomes, we all should strive to ensure that every child has equal opportunity for success.

Consideration: Much has been made of the difference between equity and equality. While equality means treating every student the same, equity means making sure every student has the support they need to be successful.

Statement of belief
“We affirm in our actions that each student can, will, and shall learn. We recognize that based on factors including but not limited to disability, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, students are deprived of equitable educational opportunities. Educational equity is the intentional allocation of resources, instruction, and opportunities according to need, requiring that discriminatory practices, prejudices, and beliefs be identified and eradicated.”


Articles, brochures and reports

  • Addressing the Root Causes of Disparities in School Discipline – Although resources exist, schools, districts, communities, and states need assistance so that they can address disparities in school discipline in a strategic and sustainable manner. The National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (2015) offers a guide to assist schools and districts in identifying and analyzing the root causes of disparities and then in developing an implementable action plan to address more than symptoms of disparities in a strategic and sustainable manner.
  • Do You Know What a ‘Microaggression’ Is? – This commentary by Connecticut Association of Boards of Education Executive Director Robert Rader (2018) examines microaggressions in the hiring process.
  • Cultural Competent Schools: A guideline for secondary school principals – An article from the National Association of School Psychologists (2006) examines how principals can put in place policies and practices that honor the diverse cultures alive in a school.
  • Educational Equity: What does it mean? How do we know when we reach it? – The Center for Public Education (2016) provides a brief overview of educational equity and its various, sometimes overlapping parts. Review areas in an equity agenda that research shows will have the greatest impact on student outcomes: funding, curriculum, teachers and discipline policies.
  • Equity: A briefing provided to the NSBA Board of Directors for a discussion of NSBA’s efforts to promote education equity – This brief by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) (2017) outlines its more recent activities in equity, including current efforts to provide an elegant definition of equity that can be easily communicated, but is sufficient to encapsulate the enormity of the concept;the mission of the equity department and the work that defines it; and a look into the envisioned future of equity at NSBA.
  • Equity Lens bookmark – Portland Public Schools created a bookmark to share how using an equity lens provides a common vocabulary and protocol for evaluating policies, programs, practices and decisions for equity; and produces policies, programs and practices which result in more equitable outcomes.
  • Glossary of common terms in equity work – Use these terms to better understand equity and how it impacts your students.
  • A Root Cause of the Teacher-Diversity Problem – The Atlantic (2018) explains that while the policy debate on teacher hiring centers on hiring teachers of diverse background, the realities may fail due to racial discrimination and bias in school-district hiring practices.


District policies