The importance of defining equity

August 4, 2017

Equity is the buzz word around the state, as well as nation. The LCFF legislation, LCAP process, and the new accountability system have moved us into a process of focusing on continuous improvement in the areas that reveal equity gaps. Multiple measures have revealed a need to redistribute resources and allocate them in innovative ways for the students who have the highest need.

It is a moral imperative to close educational gaps that have been evident in schools, where some students have not been served well in the public school system for centuries. Educational data reveals numerous gaps, including opportunity, access, achievement, service and acknowledgment gaps.

These gaps exist as a result of multiple factors including state and federal legislation that were considered historical advancements, but have currently yielded large gaps in outcomes for students. Busy educators are mandated and driven by the current educational legislation and initiatives, that often result in the perpetuation of these gaps when mindsets and practices don’t evolve. Thus it is crucial that educators intentionally commit time and resources to professional learning that provides the opportunity to deepen belief systems and awareness of diversity in their schools.

Now, more than ever, there is a deep need to truly define the word “equity” in order to apply it as a lens to our policy and practice if we are to close these educational gaps. Defining equity requires us to reflect on our own personal and professional experiences in order to shift from “talking the talk” to “walking the walk.” Here is a simple activity school leaders can do with school community stakeholders to define equity:

“Defining Equity” Activity Steps

Activity prompt #1: Reflect, write, and share an “equitable” and “inequitable” moment in your professional and person life.

Activity prompt #2: If your organization were to articulate a definition of equity, what would it say?

The “defining equity” activity is a simple and practical tool to support equity work and can be revisited at deeper levels throughout the school year with staff, students, parents and other school community stakeholders. The definition created by the group can be used as a lens to address equity issues, implement policy and improve practice. It can be used as a tool to gain buy-in from stakeholders on major initiatives and policy changes through the process of connecting “equity” to each person’s experience, as it cannot be defined by someone else. Most importantly, it creates a shift from equity being a side item on the agenda to being the agenda.

Register for the upcoming Equity Institutes at

– Nicole Anderson
Diversity and Equal Access Executive

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