NJSBA’s 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, as well as a national perspective on this issue. The Equity Council will provide information on best practices and helpful resources for New Jersey school districts.

Among the council’s initial tasks was to provide a consistent definition of “equity” and articulate how it differs from “equality.” There is sometimes confusion between the two terms. The council agreed that equity in education involves fairness, impartiality, and justice, ensuring that personal and social circumstances—for example, socio-economic status, race, gender or ethnic origin—are not a hindrance to student achievement. It goes beyond what is required by law, and extends to what is dictated by fairness.

The bicycle graphic below provides a helpful illustration of the difference.

In the upper part of the illustration, each individual was provided with the same bicycle, but due to personal needs, including size and physical challenges, it was unreasonable to expect each person to perform well on identical bikes. Sameness does not equal fairness. In the lower part of the illustration, each person has the size or type of bicycle needed. In education, equity involves providing the appropriate support structures based on identified needs.

bike illustration
Illustration courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.