I am a member of my children’s school’s Local School Decision Making Committee (LSDMC). We have various responsibilities and among them are working to make the school a positive environment for learning. Its made me look at the school differently and made me more committed to making the school better for both my children and everyone else’s.
At one of the recent district wide meetings we heard from a speaker about diversity. One of the topics the speaker raised was the difference between equal treatment and equitable treatment. At first blush this seems to be the same thing but there is a very important difference.
Equal treatment means that everyone gets exactly the same thing. This seems fair, right. But it does not address the individual needs of each student. They are all unique and have different needs.
Equitable treatment on the other hand is giving each student what they need. This is not to say that we shouldn’t challenge all students but rather to make sure that everyone gets the resources necessary to bring everyone up to a functional level which still allowing for growth of students that have greater ability. Its not about holding anyone back but bringing everyone up.
As he was talking about this topic it forced me to think about how I allow my own experiences and biases to impact how I view what we want in our school and education system. I have always wanted the best environment for all of the students but I may have been looking at it a little skewed.
One problem I see in our local school district is that there are “good” schools and “bad” schools. This is common across the country, but I can only really speak to our local schools. Instead of trying to make all of the schools high performing we seem to be reinforcing the difference. There used to be a geographic component to where you could go to school. There were different magnet schools on both halves of the district and you could go to the school in your area. This limited the time that people were on the bus or traveling to/from school.
Recently this geographic divide went away and many students from all over the district were now enrolled in the “good” school so that people that lived right next door could not attend. This has changed the entire dynamic of school choice in our city and I think its for the worse. Now children are all traveling long distances because of this one change. The question is why is this happening?
If I look at the school report cards, the school on the west side of town (the bad school) and the one on the east side of town (the good school) have some differences in scores but they aren’t radically different. I think part of this is the methodology of the scoring, but that is a different issue. They both need work according to the methodology. As a parent, I want my child to go to a “good” school. But I also don’t want them to be on the bus for hours each day.
We aren’t treating our schools Equitably but we might be treating the Equally. This leads to a perception of good vs bad schools. We aren’t giving the kids what they need and everyone scrambles to get to a school that looks better on paper at the expense of everyone’s well being.
To fix this problem, I don’t think the answer is making a good education a lottery to determine where you go to school. This type of thing shouldn’t be left up to chance. Having a nearby school where you can get a good education is important. Being able to be in a school with friends that you’ve grown up with is really important. Having a support system where you feel comfortable asking for help is critical. By making the choice of your high school effectively random does not lead to a good experience for anyone and can result in students that have the means going to private schools, which then exacerbates the feeling that the public schools are for the poor and aren’t worth it.
We need to make sure that a good education is available to all and that all of the students have the resources they need to do their best. We also need to make sure that part of the equation is keeping kids together with their friends as much as possible. We need to minimize the time they are traveling so they have more time to do homework and rest. We need to make it so that going to school isn’t a chore but rather a positive experience.