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Monday, July 17, 2017

Empowered Educators Lens on Equity


"More clearly than any other social institution, the school system expressed the distinctive vision of Singapore's leadership, with its stress on merit, competition, technology, and international standards and its rejection of special privileges for any group. Singaporeans of all ethnic groups and classes came together in the schools, and the education system affected almost every family in significant and profound ways..." - A History of Singapore

As I read Empowered Educators, I'm interested in the research related to equity. I was struck by the emphasis that it takes a systematic approach to develop equitable schools and education experiences.

Successful systems across the world have done a good job bridging the gap between low and high achievers. How did they do this?

Policies and practice have been put in place to support historically low performing students and groups of students.

Countries where education is most successful, invest in child welfare. They ensure that all schools have adequate services, teacher salaries, and working conditions. Schools with greater populations of high needs students receive extra support. There are strong incentives to place highly qualified educators in schools with the greatest needs. These educators often receive specialized training related to cultural contexts. All teachers are trained in equity pedagogy and schools create improvement plans including targeted efforts and funds to support students with the greatest needs.

Further supports to narrow any opportunity and success gaps that exist include the following:
  • Finland has free health care for all as well as adequate housing and income too for everyone
  • Finland supplies a box of baby supplies for every new baby to ensure that every child has an equitable start (amazing!)
  • Finland offers substantial parent leave, heavily subsidized childcare for all children and free preschool beginning at age 6
  • All school children receive a free meal daily, transportation, learning materials, health care and counseling in school
  • Canada, Australia and Singapore also provide substantial social supports as well
  • Additional social services where needed
  • Scholarships and specialized programs to train and attract teachers to high-need areas as well as to attract educators who represent cultures less represented in schools
  • Supports for teachers' living and family 
  • Increasing involvement of parents and families
  • Community engagement leaders who work in conjunction with principals, teachers and other school staff
  • Some target supports to struggling schools and others target struggling students no matter what the status of their school is
  • Appointment of student success teams in high schools
  • Early intervention programs
  • Partnering high performing and low performing schools with incentives for the "mentor" school--it is considered prestigious to serve in the leadership/mentoring capacity
  • Creation of school clusters with success-driven leadership strategies
  • Use of interventions to support struggling schools and educators
  • Fair distribution of highly qualified administrators and educators throughout system
New South Wales lists these concepts to lead their assets-based, anti-racist model of engagement:
  • Partnership over paternalism - How can we partner together?
  • Opportunity over disadvantage - Where can we provide and assure equal opportunity
  • Success over shortfalls - Play to strengths
  • "Listening to" over "Talking at" - What do you need, how can I help you?
  • Local solutions over one size fits all - What will work in this classroom and/or for you?
  • Evidence over assumptions - What proof do we have to support this claim, conjecture?
  • Participation over marginalization - How can we shift our efforts so that we include all?
  • Practice over theory - What practices work and how do we know that?
Ontario provides a number of supports that have resulted in success:
  • Ambitious student achievement goals
  • Identify and fund ways to improve student achievement
  • Professional learning opportunities for educators, administrators
  • Shared research on effective teaching
  • Building partnerships with universities, teachers unions, others
  • Sharing successful practices
  • Hiring tutors to reinforce previously taught concepts and skills