Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

Rising to the Opportunity Challenge: Pervasive Educational Inequity

by Valinda Kimmel

You can access the entire chat provided by Wakelet.

We’ve all been talking about the issue of inequity since last spring when the pandemic brought face-to-face learning to a halt. It wasn’t hard to admit that disruption of business as usual in education was going to make it glaringly apparent that many of our kids were not privy to resources, support, technology. The tragic part of this reality was that the inequity has been there for years and it took a global pandemic for the conversation to be raised to a heightened level.

In September of this year, the Economic Policy Institute published on online article, COVID-19 and Student Performance, Equity, and U.S. Education Policy. I was most interested in what the authors, Emma Garcia and Elaine Weiss would have to say about what we’re doing, what we’ve learned, and how we as an educational community are going to bring about AND sustain change.

The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the well-documented opportunity and enrichment gaps that put low-income students at a disadvantage relative to their better-off peers. By opportunity and enrichment gaps, we mean gaps in access to the conditions or resources that enhance learning and development between low-income students and their higher-income peers (with low-income students less likely than their better-off peers to access these conditions and resources).

We have a responsibility as educators to be keenly aware of how our students are affected by based on their needs whether those needs are academic, emotional health and well-being or basic needs of food, housing, healthcare. Our peers in the chat Thursday evening expressed concern for similar issues mentioned in the EPI piece.

We’re concerned for students and their families. Some issues are easier to tackle than others. There have been far too many issues of inequity that have been pushed down repeatedly for years. As much as the pandemic has caused great disruption, we can be grateful for the way this difficult year has brought issues of inequity to the forefront. It’s time to use what we’ve learned in the past nine months to make the needed changes.

Our #g2great chat on inequity raised some similar and other differing views of learning from what we’ve observed during this pandemic.

We know that historically crises give opportunity to challenge the status quo. In the wake of this pandemic, we must have the difficult conversations about the structures and systems in education. Our focus has to be on investing in new and innovative solutions We would do well to commit to creating and sustaining equity for all stakeholders–students, families, teachers, and support staff. Ensuring equity in education means we must admit the disparities in student success by race and class. Those disparities can and must be transformed into opportunities for all students. The time is now for redesigning systems and structures toward excellence and equity so that every child succeeds.