California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
Equity means fairness, justice, or impartiality. In education, equity means providing equal access to a standards-based education. California policymakers have taken great strides in providing equal access to education by developing a coherent system of standards-based education that includes reliable state assessments to measure student achievement. Students across grade levels are making gains in English language arts and in mathematics on the California Standards Tests (CSTs).
However, equal access alone does not automatically ensure equal outcomes in terms of student achievement, which may be affected by more variables than the school can control. Some communities that have high levels of poverty and/or gang violence, however, still face huge odds in providing standards-based, grade-level education.
One way to provide equity is to recognize how the school’s culture and climate affect learning for students from various ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds. Culturally responsive instructional practices help students connect to learning because it is more relevant to their daily lives. According to the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL), culturally responsive educational practices have the following attributes:
The Williams case (Eliezer Williams et al. v. State of California et al.) attempts to make the playing field level by calling for public schools to provide students with equal access to instructional materials, safe and decent school facilities, and qualified teachers. These three components are an important part of providing equal access, but they do not cover all aspects of social equity. The National Forum to Accelerate Middle Grades Reform (Outside Source) is a national nonprofit organization that established the Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage program to highlight effective middle grades strategies. The forum’s criteria for high performance, detailed in its School Self-Study and Rating Rubric (DOC; 413KB; 9pp.), identify the following factors that promote social equity:
Equity is critical for California’s economic future. Studies indicate California jobs that require higher education are growing faster than overall employment. Demand for jobs requiring a college degree will grow by 48 percent, while jobs not requiring a degree will grow by 33 percent. Technical services, education, and health care will require the largest number of highly educated workers. However, the fields of finance, manufacturing, and information will face significant economic impacts if California schools do not provide an adequate number of highly educated workers. "The increasing demand for highly educated workers combined with the loss of the retiring highly-educated Baby Boomers is equal to more than 3 million new workers, which is more than the population of the cities of San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco combined."1
As noted above, 33 percent of new jobs do not require a college degree. However, automotive technicians, sheet metal workers, computer repair technicians, plumbers, electricians, and agricultural managers are a few of the skilled tradespeople who will need reading and comprehension skills. Many of these professionals will also need moderate to advanced computational skills.
In spite of the sometimes global challenges educators face in improving student achievement, many schools are making gains. The content for this Recommendation looks at the strategies that help students excel by promoting fairness and equal opportunity.
Recommendation 7 - Access
The Chance to Engage Potential Dropouts
1 Keeping California’s Edge: The Growing Demand for Highly Educated Workers—Executive Summary (PDF; Outside Source). Prepared for the California Business Roundtable and the Campaign for College Opportunity. Sacramento: Applied Research Center, California State University, 2006.
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California Department of Education
1430 N Street
Sacramento, CA 95814