Early Childhood Development

What is the Difference Between Equality & Equity?

By Jennifer Van Pelt

An image that visualizes the difference between equality and equity. In both images three figures stand in front of a fence, attempting to see over it, and they all stand at different levels of the field, some higher and some lower than the others. The “equality” image shows each figure standing on an equal sized box, yet one figure still cannot see over the fence. The “equity” image shows the figure lowest on the field with three boxes, the second lowest with two, and so on, so that everyone can see over the fence. ( Source )

An image that visualizes the difference between equality and equity. In both images three figures stand in front of a fence, attempting to see over it, and they all stand at different levels of the field, some higher and some lower than the others. The “equality” image shows each figure standing on an equal sized box, yet one figure still cannot see over the fence. The “equity” image shows the figure lowest on the field with three boxes, the second lowest with two, and so on, so that everyone can see over the fence. (Source)

The terms “equity” and “equality” are frequently thought to be interchangeable. However, in the world of education (and beyond) there is a large distinction between the two that can be differentiated in the same way as “fairness” and “sameness.” King University describes the difference as, “Equality denotes how people are treated, such as providing students an equal amount of respect or an equal amount of instruction. But equity, on the other hand, is about giving each students the tools [they] specifically need to thrive.” Equality assumes that every child needs the same amount of attention and tools in school in order to succeed. Equity accounts for the fact that children have different home lives, backgrounds, learning styles, or learning disabilities, among other factors.

The Glossary of Education Reform outlines several ways in which inequity can enter the public school system and classrooms:

  • Societal Inequity: Minority students (based on race, ethnicity, nationality, language, religion, class, gender, sexual orientation, or ability) may experience conscious or unconscious discrimination that can affect their learning, achievement, or aspirations.

  • Socioeconomic Inequity: Students from lower-income households can under-perform in the classroom and tend to enroll in higher education at lower rates than their more affluent peers.

  • Familial Inequity: Students may come from a tumultuous household with abuse, poverty, or lack of support. Parents who are unable to read themselves or were unable obtain a diploma may place a different emphasis on academics than parents who obtained a college degree.

  • Linguistic Inequity: Students who are learning the English language may be disadvantaged in classrooms that provide English-only exams and can be held to lower academic expectations.

These background variables place students at different advantages in school, starting from the time they enter Kindergarten. The support an English-language learner needs in a classroom differs from the attention a student who comes from an low-literate household needs. By focusing on these needs from the beginning, we can prevent achievement gaps that will only widen over time.

There are various ways to help bring fairness to the classroom and provide the tools that each student needs individually to succeed. An article written by Shane Safir, the founding co-principal of June Jordan School for Equity, explains some of these methods. Her first example details an English-language learner who struggled with paragraphs and punctuation and how she found the time for one-on-one teaching during a class quiz. By placing more emphasis on the student’s learning gap instead of a quiz that the entire class was taking, the teacher saw the importance in bringing the ELL student up to speed with the rest of the class. Some of her other methods include knowing the students lives outside of school, what they enjoy doing, and more about their family, so the teacher can build trust and begin to understand what additional support, if any, the child may need. Safir also believes in creating a safe space where failure is celebrated and students can share their struggles with their peers in order to learn from each other.

There have been several federal initiatives related to providing equity to students through how funding is allocated to schools as well as supporting organizations who can help bridge the equity gap directly. Promise Neighborhoods, Investing in Innovation, and IDEA are all recent federal initiatives that focus on supporting nonprofits and institutions of higher education that provide these students the tools they need to thrive.

Words Alive works to achieve equity in education, by providing additional support to students who may be working through extraordinary circumstances in the public school system. If you would like to learn more or get involved with our Words Alive programs, click here for more information.

Sources:

https://online.king.edu/news/equality-vs-equity/

https://www.edglossary.org/equity/

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/equity-vs-equality-shane-safir

Investing In Early Childhood Development

Words Alive is working alongside some great organizations to support early education in San Diego, such as the Education Synergy Alliance P-3 Salon and the Diamond Education Excellence Partnership. Words Alive brings our expertise in early literacy to the table offering Family Literacy programming as part of community solutions. Early childhood education lays the groundwork for success in Elementary School and beyond.

“A critical time to shape productivity is from birth to age five, when the brain develops rapidly to build the foundation of cognitive and character skills necessary for success in school, health, career and life.” 

Dr. James Heckman, Nobel Laureate in Economics and expert in economics of human development, argues that

it also pays to invest in a child’s early years.  The Heckman Equation shows for every dollar invested in early childhood education there is a “7%-10% per year return, based on increased school and career achievement as well as reduced costs in remedial education, healthy and criminal justice expenditures” for early childhood education.

During a recent visit to Dewey Child Development Center to join the celebration of families graduating from the Words Alive Family Literacy Program, I was struck by the story of a mother’s resilience and the role she felt Words Alive played in helping to empower her to be her child’s first and most important teacher. Maria has 2 children, Max age 4 and Camila, age 7. Maria shared that growing up and attending school in Mexico, reading was a challenge because she did not have books or the support that she needed to make reading accessible; “My parents never read to me, my mother never came to my school.” Asking what influence the program had on reading habits with her children, she continued “one of the most important things I learned is that reading isn’t just about the words on the pages, it is about colors, the pictures, rhyming, and the themes in the book." Maria said that both of her children are more engaged in reading now because she knows how to make it a fun part of their routine.

FLP Graduates Marie and Max

Maria and her children were just one of seventy families graduating from the 7-week Family Literacy program in March armed with new knowledge, a kindergarten readiness tool kit, and a commitment to continue to make reading matter for their children.

Programs like Family Literacy and the wide variety of early childhood programs throughout San Diego will give these families and children a level playing field, a better start to their school career, and an increased opportunity for high school graduation – all of which will lead to a boost in our economy. By one projection,

“A 5% increase in male high school graduation rates is estimated to save California $753 million in annual incarceration costs and crime-related expenditures. If that same 5% not only graduated but went on to college at the same rate as typical male high school graduates, their average earnings would accrue an additional $352 million annually.”

If a collaborative effort is made to provide access and empower families with young children we at Words Alive and other organizations working together can make a huge impact on our community. At Words Alive we believe that Literacy is the foundation of community and economic development. When everyone can read, whole communities thrive.