What is educational equity?

Equality vs. Equity: What’s the Difference?

Equality is treating everyone the same. It only works well if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help and support.
Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. An equitable education works well when ALL students receive individualized resources to be successful.

What are some issues of equity in education today?

School Zoning Practices – The way school zones are drawn creates schools with high concentrations of students living in poverty, and these schools do not get the same resources as schools in higher-income areas.
Classroom Discipline – Ineffective disciplinary practices can create high absentee, suspension and expulsion rates.
Teacher Representation – Less experienced teachers are found in highest need schools at high rates, while top performing schools often retain the most experienced educators.
Funding – Funding is not distributed equitably to schools based on their individual needs to best support their students, specifically discretionary spending.
Classroom Offerings – Some schools lack advanced course offerings like AP and IB courses or lack desired vocational programs.
Hope Scholarship Eligibility – The percentage of students eligible for the Hope Scholarship varies widely across schools in the county.

Download a fact sheet about these issues in Hamilton County schools >

Case Studies & Articles

Here are several case studies and articles that show the impact of inequities in education, plus some success stories of how these issues have been addressed in other communities.

Topic: Teacher Diversity 

Lack of Teacher Diversity Jeopardizes Student Achievement >

Key Points:
  • Diversity among students is now the majority, but diversity among teachers widens

  • Having racially diverse teachers provides students cultural understanding of the world around them

  • Two decades ago, 26% of teachers were people of color, today it’s 18%

  • Teachers of color are often employed in districts that are minority-majority/struggling with budgetary issues, stagnant pay, poor facilities, and limited resources

  • Policies need to be put into place to support teachers of color (such as scholarships, training, and funding)

Helpful terms:

Restorative Discipline – A whole-school relational approach to building school climate and addressing student behavior.

Key Points:

  • Restorative discipline helps teachers build relationships and changes the culture and climate of a school

  • Talking circles are used to show all students and faculty are valued and have input in decisions

  • Closes the school-to-prison pipeline by reducing the number of suspensions

  • Respect agreements provide students with empathy and accountability

Topic: Zoning Policy 

Understanding Exclusionary Zoning and Its Impact on Concentrated Poverty >

Helpful terms:

Concentrated Poverty – The poverty rate of an area or school is 40% or more
Exclusionary Zoning – Policy that keeps affordable housing out of neighborhoods through land use and building code requirements

Key Points:

  • Exclusionary zoning practice has been around since early 20th century as a vehicle for racial discrimination in the housing sector

  • Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, ability, and familial status. Notably, however, it does not prohibit class-based discrimination.

  • Exclusionary zoning has expanded into the urban core as wealthy and largely white families move back into cities, pushing the poor and minorities out

  • Exclusionary zoning promotes income segregation by creating areas of concentrated poverty and concentrated wealth

Topic: Resource Allocation & Funding 

The Gap Between Rich and Poor Schools Grew 44 Percent Over a Decade: Growing Money Gap Across 30 States >

Helpful terms:
Funding Gap – Shortfall of money/capital needed to fund future operations or projects
Key points:
  • A national funding gap of $1,500 per student between rich and poor schools has grown 44% since 2001-2002

  • Under President Johnson’s War on Poverty, federal dollars were meant to close the poverty gap

  • States that rely heavily on property taxes have not figured out a way to close the gap between the rich and poor schools

  • Under law, schools are financed through districts but a policy could require states to finance schools comparably between districts