HOW TO BRING AN EQUITY LENS TO THE WORK

“Bringing an equity lens” means making sure that students of every socio-economic background, race, ethnicity, gender, etc., are provided equitable opportunities and supports to discover their talents and interests and develop the skills needed to pursue the post-secondary pathways of their choice.

It also means being attentive to the default tendency to sort students of a particular gender or background into specific stereotypical pathways.

Students’ understanding of their postsecondary options tend to be defined and in many cases limited by the experience and assumptions of their families and communities.

Students whose adult acquaintances have not attended college are less likely to realize they have that option, and even if they express an interest in college, may not receive the guidance they need on practical measures to attain that goal.

Conversely, students of parents who are professionals may feel pressure to pursue a similar pathway even if their aptitudes and interests lie elsewhere.

In addition, disparities in financial and other resources often limit students’ access to potentially useful opportunities.

(Click the above image for a PDF version of the resources on this page)

HOW TO MAKE IT HAPPEN

  • Objectively evaluate the current situation in your school or district. If student enrollment in “academic” or college prep courses vs. technical ones shows de facto sorting based on race or socioeconomic class, there is work to be done. An evaluation of current outcomes will provide concrete data, but a walk through your building will probably give you a pretty good idea to start.
  • At middle school and early high school level, provide challenging content to all students in heterogeneous groups, eliminating academic tracking.
  • Offer extra-help support classes to enable less well-prepared students succeed in accelerated courses. See How to provide academic supports for postsecondary readiness.
  • Improve communication with parents as well as students about academic options available and their potential benefits for their children’s future. Use accessible language and vocabulary and consider use of appropriate technology (e.g., voice or text messages sent to cell phones rather than email or take-home paper information).
  • Consider using multiple measures of academic performance and preparedness to improve educational equity, rather than relying solely or primarily on standardized tests and class grades.At state or district level, offer simple, transparent mechanisms to provide financial assistance for all students to access programs that boost academic preparedness, such as summer enrichment camps or courses and AP or dual enrollment opportunities.

EXEMPLARS IN PRACTICE

Schools to Learn From: How Six High Schools Graduate English Language Learners College and Career Ready
Stanford Graduate School of Education, Carnegie Corp. of New York
December 2015
Detailed study of academic and SEL supports that six successful high schools provide ELL students for postsecondary success.

Idaho gives education money directly to teenagers to manage themselves 
Hechinger Report
April 2017
State provided educational expense account for every secondary students to use for academic enrichment costs, with heavy benefits for high-achieving disadvantaged students.

Clemson Emerging Scholars Program
Clemson University’s intensive program to provide college access and readiness to students from seven neighboring high schools serving disadvantaged communities. Includes summer on-campus residency weeks and academic year activities as well as visits to numerous regional colleges.

Aligning competencies to rigorous standards for off-track youth
Jobs for the Future
December 2012
In-depth report on Boston Day & Evening Academy’s successful program to enable off-track youth achieve Common Core required competencies.

For a brief article on the same program, see: Reimagining failure: ‘Last-chance’ schools are the future of American high schools, Hechinger Report, July 2017.

Colleges Discover the Rural Student, Center on Rural Education
New York Times
January 2017
This article explores the complexities and challenges of encouraging students in rural communities to consider academic educational and career pathways.

What happens when a regular high school decides no student is a lost cause?
Hechinger Report
August 2017
Challenges and achievements of trauma-informed education program in a Washington state high school.

RESOURCES

RESEARCH


New Pathways to Careers and College: Examples, Evidence, and Prospects
MDRC
April 2015
Thorough review of current status and trends in postsecondary pathways

The impact of dual enrollment on college degree attainment: Do low-SES students benefit?
AERA, Brian P. An

March 2013
Reports modest but significant positive effects of dual enrollment on subsequent college outcomes for disadvantaged students.

Accelerating mathematics achievement using heterogeneous grouping
American Educational Research JournalCarol Corbett Burris, Jay P. Heubert, and Henry M. Levin
March 2006
Longitudinal study showing middle grade heterogeneous grouping and extra-help workshops improved high school math achievement for lower-performing students, without detriment to high achievers.

The underutilized potential of teacher-to-parent communication: Evidence from a field experiment
Economics of Education Review, Matthew A Kraft and Todd Rogers
August 2015
Study found brief weekly teacher-parent messages on students’ academic activities led to 41% decrease in course failure for low achieving, primarily disadvantaged and minority students.

Hidden in Plain Sight 
Civic Enterprises & Hart Research Associates for America’s Promise Alliance
June 2016
Extensive treatment of student homelessness and its impacts.