The NJSBA Equity Council consists of board of education members, superintendents, district administrators, and representatives from the New Jersey Department of Education, higher education, and advocacy groups. The purpose of the Equity Council is to provide NJSBA leadership, members and staff with information about issues and field experiences related to equity in education in New Jersey school districts. The Equity Council regularly provides information on best practices and helpful resources to New Jersey school districts. 

NJSBA Educator-in-Residence Vincent DeLucia coordinates meetings of the Equity Council. In today’s column, he addresses the difference between “equity” and “equality.” 

There have been many discussions addressing the differences between equity and equality. Equality, in education, means treating every student the same; equity is defined as making sure every student has the specific supports they need to be successful. Unlike equality, where all are given the same supports regardless of their need for each, equity provides specific, differentiated programs and support structures that give individuals the opportunities to succeed.

Equity in education requires putting systems in place to ensure that every child has an equal chance for success. That requires understanding the unique challenges and barriers faced by individual students or by populations of students and providing additional supports to help them overcome those barriers. While this may not ensure equal outcomes, we all should strive to ensure that every child has equal opportunity for success.

For generations society’s message to secondary students and their families has been that to be successful, one must have a college degree. From experiences, we know that guidance was not only false, it translated to comprehensive high schools having fewer curricula opportunities for career-focused students whose post high school plans may have included continuing their education but not attending either two- or four-year colleges.

How many students have we lost to not having a focus on their post-high school needs due to those unrealistic beliefs? Since equity is providing specific supports to be successful, by not providing a curriculum with the most effective post-secondary pathways for all students, including those who are career-focused, districts across the nation have essentially ignored the needs of those students. While the educational needs of those whose post-secondary plans include college are the focus of comprehensive high schools, we can imagine the discouragement of students who are not among those planning to attend college.

Discussions about post-secondary opportunities and plans exclude non-college-bound learners.  Courses targeted to address their futures are fewer.

The need for equity addresses much more that ethnicities, races, or religions. Equity includes all whose experiences are described as “disenfranchised.” Equity addresses the needs of those with special needs, focuses on the challenges of those who identify as LGBTQ and provides appropriate programs for all, regardless of the way they learn, their abilities, their interests, and their challenges.

Equity includes a comprehensive career awareness program beginning in elementary school. Equity includes career and technical education programs (CTE) in all job categories plus internships and apprenticeships to further their educational experiences. Equity includes a comprehensive curriculum that meets the needs of all students, regardless of their plans, their zip code or their family background.