Equity can't be addressed without looking at opportunity

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The topic of equity is increasingly moving to the forefront of discussions in education. In his address to the Council of Great City Schools this week, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stated, "We can't close the achievement gap if we don't close the opportunity gap." He further spoke about Race to The Top's equity competition where districts worked to move the most talented teachers to the neediest schools.  We previously wrote about this project here

The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights data based on the 2011-2012 school year and released last week presents some dismal findings about these disparities seen from Pre-K to high school regarding access, discipline trends, and the quality of teaching students receive.  

While each of the findings is quite worthy of a full article, let's ponder just a few of them. According to an analysis by Education Week, black students have a greater chance of: being instructed by less qualified teachers; being instructed by a lower paid teacher; being suspended or expelled; not having access to chemistry or Algebra 2; and being retained.

Do we really wonder how to address the achievement gap when the cards are stacked like this? Students of color are experiencing disparate impact in the area of discipline which result in lost opportunities to learn. 

Regretfully the funds (Title I) allocated to help disadvantaged students do not seem to alter these outcomes. These data provide evidence that what we know from research is not driving decisions to increase equity and erase the achievement gap. We know teachers in their first year are typically less effective than experienced teachers. We know that access to STEM content increases the likelihood that students will be college and career ready, and that students need those rigorous courses to prepare for greater outcomes. Effective classroom management strategies can go a long way in ensuring students remain in the classroom to learn rather than spending time missing out.

What is even more disturbing is that black students attend schools where more than twenty percent of teachers have not met state certification requirements at a rate of four times that of white students.

These findings call into great question whether as a nation we are doing all we can to address the opportunity gap so that equity can be a reality for students of color, students with limited English proficiency, and students who come from poverty. For a deeper dive into the data, look to ocrdata.ed.gov.