As the growth in personalized learning initiatives has emphasized, students will exhibit differing aptitudes for subjects depending on their strengths.
However, issues with classroom equity have left some students unable to perform, not because they are having trouble grasping the material but because of issues related to geography, race, gender, ethnicity, language or economics.
In response, America’s Promise Alliance, the Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program and the Council of Chief State School Officers have issued a report to help school districts address these equity issues.
“We recognize the journey toward educational equity is a long and arduous one, but it is an important and necessary journey that will define the course of our nation,” the report’s authors conclude. “We all recognize we can do more, and these promising practices show we are on the right path to ensure a brighter future for our nation’s students.”
Innovations in technology may be the key in establishing an equal playing field for students struggling to catch up to their peers.
Accessibility Through Online Learning Programs
A prominent distinction among students is where they live, more specifically the difference between urban and rural homes.
Those living farther away from their school district may not be able to access the same resources or may be more likely to miss days of school because of their living situations, with states like North Carolina and Maine seeing a significant rise in absenteeism in rural students.
Establishing an online network where students can access classroom materials and school resources can be a great way to boost equity. Some districts have already begun to create these types of networks.
The Utah Education Network, in collaboration with the Utah State Board of Education, has compiled a site housing research databases, lesson plans and platforms for distance learning, according to the report.
UEN has also partnered with Canvas, a learning management system by Instructure, to keep students on an even keel regardless of where they live.
"Every Utahn deserves equal opportunities to education and as active participants in the state's Digital Teaching and Learning Initiative, we are pleased to see this collaboration's early success," says Laura Hunter, COO at Utah Education and Telehealth Network, in a press release.
Leverage Data to Create Better Improvement Initiatives
Understanding how to improve equity starts with an understanding of what your school district lacks.
In Ohio, the state’s Department of Education developed an equity plan involving the creation of data resources like the Educator Workforce Strength Index, which schools can use to develop improvement plans.
The department’s Resource Guide for Equitable Access to Excellent Educators Component specifies a directive for schools to use data-driven decisions as a skeletal framework for plans that fit their specific needs.
Some schools, like the Hattiesburg (Miss.) Public School District, have long used Big Data to track student performance and behavior to assess student needs.
Other institutions, like AltSchool, deeply integrate data tracking, following statistics including student engagement, use of resources and vocabulary to help school administrators and teachers decide how best to allocate resources.
AltSchool students have seen an increase in measured academic progress 15 percent above what was expected, according to AltSchool’s data.
Students who entered at the lowest academic percentile benefitted even more, with nearly double the expected academic growth.