Equity, Equality, and Reform in Contemporary Public Education: Equity, Equality, and Reform

Equity, Equality, and Reform in Contemporary Public Education: Equity, Equality, and Reform

Marquis Carter Grant
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-4507-5.ch066
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Principles of equity have largely been overlooked in the field of education in favor of an acute focus on equality. Brown vs. Board of Education challenged practices of separate but equal, maintaining that equality was the foundation on which education should be built if all students were to benefit from education. Without a dual consideration for both equity and equality, practitioners are limited in their ability to provide an appropriate education to diverse populations of children. It is not enough to give students the same access to learning opportunities and resources. Educators must also create individualized pathways to the learning environment if all students are to benefit academically.
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Race and racism are not unchartered territory in public education. In fact, race is likely the most provocatively emotional subject when it comes to past and present contexts of the American public schools (Buchanan, 2015). There have been numerous studies and reports that have acknowledged the overwhelming effect of race on children’s experiences in school. Racial bias can be traced back to the colonization of America and it remains interwoven into our social fabric over three centuries later as evidenced by the inability to resolve the problem of the achievement gap when it comes to black and brown children in the United States (Hipp, 2012). Race is a part of our natural fiber, ever present in the lives of teachers and students in the classroom. While modern classrooms are changing to reflect a more diverse student population, over 80% of the teachers in the classroom are White middle-class females (Banks & Banks, 2009; Landsman & Lewis, 2006). Many argue that this fact alone may shed light on why minority children are not meeting proficiency levels outlined in federal and state standards (Pritchett, 2011). Not that teachers are intentionally causing a disconnect between teaching and learning, but the lack of understanding about races, cultures, languages and diversity may prevent some teachers from being able to meet the needs of all learners in their classrooms (Hipp, 2012).

After the Supreme Court ended de jure segregation in the public-school system, integration was not a voluntary act and was rarely welcomed with open-mindedness. Efforts to integrate schools were done so with reluctance for years after the Brown decision, with the Supreme Court announcing that “there had been too much deliberation and not enough speed” in desegregating public schools in the United States (Stooksbury, 2006, para.9) Once Black children were equally placed alongside their White peers in the classroom, they were expected to keep up with a curriculum that was more rigorous than which they were accustomed, expected to perform at grade level without the benefit of previous exposure to materials and continuously regarded as inferior if they could not demonstrate satisfactory acquisition of content area knowledge (Council of Great City Schools, 2012).

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