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Pilot Conversation #26: Minnesota

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Pilot Conversation #9: South Carolina

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Pilot Conversation #26: Minnesota

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Pilot Conversation #70: Georgia

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Pilot Conversation #54: National

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Pilot Conversation #83: National

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Pilot Conversation #24: Washington

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Pilot Conversation #83: National

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Pilot Conversation #73: Illinois

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Pilot Conversation #74: Minnesota

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Pilot Conversation #45: National

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Pilot Conversation #93: Nevada

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Pilot Conversation #64: New Jersey

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Pilot Conversation #79: California

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Pilot Conversation #64: New Jersey

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Pilot Conversation #15: Michigan

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Pilot Conversation #51: National

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Pilot Conversation #52: National

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Pilot Conversation #75: Minnesota

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Pilot Conversation #72: California

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Pilot Conversation #64: New Jersey

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Pilot Conversation #75: Minnesota

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Pilot Conversation #75: Minnesota

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Pilot Conversation #58: Wisconsin

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Pilot Conversation #88: California

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Pilot Conversation #75: Minnesota

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Pilot Conversation #79: National

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Pilot Conversation #25: Minnesota

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Pilot Conversation #22: Virginia

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Pilot Conversation #62: Oklahoma

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Pilot Conversation #24: Washington

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Pilot Conversation #99: National

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Pilot Conversation #22: Virginia

Insight: What does equity in education mean?

An important point that emerged from the 100 Days participants, is that while there is considerable discussion about equity, it’s often not particularly well-defined. ties our experiences with school.

A frequent assertion was that equity is not the same as equality; and another is that future opportunity is often mistaken for current equity of experience today.

Equity is on many people’s minds these days, particularly after the murder of George Floyd and millions more people joined the movement for more action to be taken in service of equity and justice in our justice, civic, and schooling systems (among others). In 100 Days, students, parents, and educators discussed what equity in education looked like to them.

However, the desire for definition goes beyond these simple equity vs. equality or future vs. now distinctions - without a clear definition of the kind of equity being discussed, and what that actually looks like in practice, it’s nearly impossible to move from conversations to change in any of our systems.

Across the conversations, there were five key themes for what equity in education actually looks like: equitable distribution of resources, voice, diversity, acknowledgement of inequity, and humane pedagogy.
The following information was analyzed from conversations between students, educators, families, and community members across the United States.

Conversations

117
+

Voices

510
+

States

37
+
Click on the highlighted words to hear participant voices.
Equitable Distribution of ResourcesVoiceDiversityHumane PedagogyQuestions to ConsiderWork to Make Change

Equitable Distribution of Resources

Equitable distribution of funding, facilities, and other resources across the school system as a whole (across schools, districts, cities and states) were a primary way participants envisioned equity being practiced in education. Many noted it has not been achieved, so ensuring equitable distribution of resources is one of the main policy changes that could help us foster equity - what we invest in one student or set of students should be fair in comparison with what we invest in other students.

For some specific examples, schools in urban areas have a harder time recruiting and keeping teachers, and oftentimes teachers in urban schools are not specifically trained for low-income urban context and its challenges, and they may not deeply understand their students’ experiences outside of school.

Within schools or classrooms, resource distribution is also a key part of equity.

While our discussion focused on education equity, participants discussed how equity in education truly depends on an equitable distribution of resources beyond schooling systems as well: participants discussed that true equity would be when students have stable housing, access to medical care, healthy and supportive relationships with at least 1-2 adults, or access to safe living conditions, and all of their other needs me to ensure they . A secure social safety net is important for education - and for thriving beyond school. This means working within education but also organizing outside of education for change.

Voice

The idea of “voice” came up frequently when participants discussed what equity looks like to them. Most often this involved centering student voice and valuing student perspectives across important conversations and decisions in the school - a.k.a. giving students power and ownership - was identified as a key part of equity. This is the idea of “no decision about us without us.” 

For participants, equity in practice would look like students having a seat at the table and a say in the decisions that mattered to them or affected their experience. At the very least, it should include students being allowed to develop their own views and perspectives on the content in class. Rather than recipients of school, students were imagined as co-creators of learning experiences and environments. 

Furthermore, participants talked about how it’s important to have a diversity of student voices represented, everyone has a seat at the table, not just always going to the young people who are doing well, getting good grades, or have the best relationships with teachers. In addition, thinking about diversity in voices in terms of intersectionality, not just race, gender, class, age, ethnicity, language, but making sure different kinds of intersectional identities are heard and included and valued.

Diversity

One of the ways diversity was talked about was in terms of representation. This was partly simply making sure different identities and perspectives were included in the curriculum - for instance, including female authors in books read, ensuring different kinds of families are included in stories, different identities of scientists in history and science, or ensuring everyone has access to an ethnic studies course

But it also means ensuring that teachers and other adults at the school are diverse. For instance, ensuring all students interact with teachers of different races and genders - black male teachers were identified as particularly important but difficult to find. And, that different student identities were represented in higher level courses and that all students had the opportunity to interact and work with other young people of diverse identities. 

At times, “diversity” seems to get conflated with “race” in discussions. Participants talked about how there needs to be a value on multiple different kinds of diversity - cultural, racial, socioeconomic, gender, physical ability - and how it’s important to see how these different identities can intersect at times.

A part of this is seeing and accepting people as unique and whole people beyond any label to ensure everyone feels they can belong, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender, language, ability differences, or otherwise. As one participant mentioned, this means that "No one leaves feeling ‘no one even saw me; no one even knew I was there."

Another part of valuing diversity is ensuring students and educators learn about power, inequality, and inequity. Research has found that students of color who learn the world is fair can end up internalizing and blaming themselves for issues caused by systemic racism and unfair policies.

Humane Pedagogy

As 100 Days participants discussed equity meant that pedagogy was humanistic. For participants, this meant that:

1. All people, students, educators, families, and others, are seen and valued in their full humanity, regardless of performance;

2. Experiences are individualized or tailored to each person’s strengths, interests, needs, and areas of growth;

3. Learning is accessible to all, regardless of learning difference or need;

4. There’s an element of ownership and choice on the part of students;

5. and, Outcomes or “success” is measured beyond a singular standardized measure like test scores.

Fundamentally, humanistic pedagogy is an approach to education that “helps bring us alive.”

Questions to Consider

For Policy Makers and Activists

  • How are students involved in informing our policy decisions? How can their perspective make a positive impact?
  • What will equity look like beyond the issue at hand? What does a truly equitable society look like?
  • How will we ensure that diverse representation is central in our leadership teams, planning, and action committees?

For Educators

  • How will students impact our day to day activities and extended projects? How is the curriculum co-developed by students?
  • Is our support clear of students of diverse backgrounds? How do we acknowledge and affirm all students?
  • What could a humane classroom entail? How can we build humanizing, individualized, choice-driven spaces that go beyond standardized measures?

For Young People

  • How can we form together to make a pathway toward change? How can we become more involved in community efforts?
  • What will our classrooms look like with our input? How can we band together to make our voices heard?
  • How can we acknowledge and affirm each other's viewpoints to create a change-driven cooperative space?

Work to Make Change

Curious how we came to these conclusions?

Learn more about the analysis process at 100 Days of Conversations:
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