Why Equity is Foundational for a Quality Education

This was first published in the Burlington School District Spotlight Vol. 8. No. 1 on Sept. 2, 2015

Equity is defined as the state or quality of being just and fair. Another way to understand it’s meaning is to differentiate it from the idea of equality. Equality exists when everyone has a pair of shoes to wear. Equity occurs when you have the right-sized shoes for your feet. As the Partnership for Change moves into its fourth year, equity for students in their learning spaces will be an important priority.

As the Partnership work is focused on the high school per the Nellie Mae Education Foundation grant guidelines, teachers at BHS this year will have the opportunity to support students as they build their own Personalized Learning Plans (PLPs). Beginning with identifying their aspirations, students will align their learning goals with their life goals in order to achieve the desired outcomes for success in career or college. Equity becomes important so each student gets the support they need for learning and to be their best selves.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Yale Professor of Child Psychiatry Dr. James Comer, who says, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.” Education is relational and it is all about relationships. I feel that communication is the lifeblood of equity. In order that a teacher best provide for the needs of a student, it requires that a meaningful relationship exists. Then, effectively communicating with the student can reveal what support is necessary for achieving the educational goals laid out in the PLP.

I believe teachers are unsung heroes doing some of the most important work in our society, shaping the lives of our next generation. Much is demanded of teachers so how can they take on yet another task, connecting with their students through the lens of equity? I would dare say that this undertaking should not add to their overflowing plate but requires a simple gesture. Show up for your students as a person instead of a position. Know who is showing up each day in your learning space. Be curious to know their story. How do you build trust with your students? Let each and every student know that you care. And, they will tell you their truth, what they need to be successful. This is putting on the lens of equity.

If you need a thought partner to have a deeper conversation about equity, I would welcome the opportunity. You can contact me at hal@partnershipvt.org.

Hal Colston

Director, Partnership for Change