Educating Everybody’s Children: Equality vs. Equity

kids eating chocolate cake

It has often been stated that not everything that is fair is equal. Many times, this can be seen in the field of education when realizing the importance of differentiation in the classroom. Providing equal treatment to all students may not be completely fair, because not all students need the same things.

All students come to the classroom with a particular set of needs and a diverse cultural background. Educators need to be aware of how to best teach them in a fair, but not always equal, manner.

This can really be examined by first understanding the differences between equality and equity. Equality is all about treating people the same regardless of status, rights and opportunities. Equity is about treating people fairly and customizing that treatment to what they might need.

Because of the diverse needs of students, it is the job of the teacher to focus on equity above equality. Treating students equally does not take into account the multitude of differences that each student brings to the classroom, whereas equity considers those differences and seeks out ways to advocate for those students in a variety of ways.

When looking at what educators can do to actively promote equity in the classroom, we must first recognize our beliefs and attitudes about people, cultures and the stereotypes that surround us on an everyday basis. We must understand that equity is more about an attitude and mindset than it is about actual strategies.

As educators, we must first understand our own biases before we begin implementing changes into our teaching. We must unmask the beliefs that have controlled our thinking in the past in order to make positive changes in the way we treat our students.

Equity is understanding that all students come from different backgrounds and should be treated fairly based on those differences. This idea can be best seen in cases of students in special education and the mainstream classroom. Educators should be able to adapt their lessons to all different learning styles and provide differentiation strategies in order to best fit the needs of all students.

Within these strategies, however, educators must not lose sight of holding high expectations for all of their students. For example, lowering expectations for some students based on their background or skill level can lead to students create self-fulfilling prophecies.

All students should be able to believe that they can be successful in school and can rise to high expectations. Treating students equitably means providing differential strategies while still holding them accountable to the high expectations that all students receive.

Grand Canyon University’s College of Education core principles are learning, leading and serving in all aspects of education. Learn more about an education at GCU by contacting us today.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.