Equity in the classroom can be defined as emphasizing what students need in the classroom. In other words, this refers to the principle that all students are offered equal educational opportunities that encompasses all students individual learning styles. Earlier this week, I was tasked with the assignment to dissect the case study at Southwest High School and whether or not equity is being attained. With that being said, at Southwest High School students who do not pass math in 8th grade must start by taking Pre-Algebra. This course uses curriculum that is mostly computational review in order to prepare students for the rigorous Algebra course. Students must score an 80% on the skill assessment in order to enter the Algebra course.
After doing some research, it is evident to me that an equity issue is present in this case study. First and foremost, whether or not the math in 8th grade was taught in a way that encompasses individual learning styles and highlights areas in which the students need improvement. The method implemented at Southwest High School set their students up to fail before they even have a chance to succeed. The equity issue presented in Southwest High School is evident in the schools description of the Pre-Algebra class: “This course uses curriculum that is mostly computational review in order to prepare students for the rigorous Algebra course”. This description is insensitive to students who struggle with 8th grade math. Set aside from students finding difficulty in the material, the description makes it seem as if the students are expected to find the computational review easy. In addition, students that find 8th grade math and the computational review difficult, may be inflicted with anxiety and become disheartened when the description highlights the following Algebra course will be rigorous. Consequently, it almost sounds as if the students are expected to find the course difficult before they have even taken it. It is important that students are aware of the benchmark that needs to be met in order to continue with their education, but when Southwest High School states that the students need to meet the requirement of 80% in order to advance onto the Algebra course might create unnecessary pressure before they have even taken the test.
Southwest High Schools lack of equity reminds me of a time when I was in high school and my Algebra teacher didn’t enact equity in the classroom and personally hindered my advancement in math. Prior to that class, math is a subject that I have always found interesting but found myself struggling to understand the material immediately. Nevertheless, I was still getting good grades but had to put in the extra work. With that being said, I was always asking my teacher questions to improve my understanding. Consequently, one day during worktime my teacher asked me to meet her outside of the classroom. It was to my surprise that she suggested that I go into a different math class for students’ who struggle with math called ‘Math Star’ because I asked ‘too much questions’ and she ‘didn’t know how to answer my questions’. Reflecting on that experience, I know that her heart was in the right place, but it doesn’t take away the emotions that I was inflicted with at that moment in time. Set aside from the fact that I felt like a burden, this experience created a new found distrust in my teachers going forward. As a result, instead of asking questions when I was confused, I elected to stay quiet and try and figure it out myself. Consequently, my grade started to drop.
As a future educator, I know that I will be faced with different challenges similar to this experience; however, one thing that I will always strive for is being there for all my students and creating an equitable environment that promotes questions and learning at a comfortable level. With that being said, I decided to research strategies that endorses equity in the classroom. This led me to the article on edutopia by Shane Safir, 6 Steps Towards Equity, this article
is a very helpful tool and sheds light to the fact that equity is hard to embrace in the
classroom; however, it can be achieved in time through time. The points that I
will be highlighting are methods I will conduct in my future classroom.
1. Know Every Student – The more a teacher knows about their students, the more they can build trust and differentiate instruction in a way that is tailored to individual strengths and struggles. Hence, promoting trust and comfortableness.
2. Become a warm demander – Teachers need to convince students of their potential and brilliance. With that being said, I will carry out this in my classroom by holding students to high expectations. This will instill confidence in students and their capability.
3. Practice lean-in assessment – No standardized test will provide teachers with quality data on students understanding of the material. Lean- in assessment will help diagnose students’ learning needs. With that being said, I will implement this in the classroom by carrying a clipboard around while students are working, and take careful notes on what I observe. Additionally, students should be assessed by the teachers in whether or not the teacher thinks the student is capable and ready to move onto the next subject. Standardized and benchmark testing can be overwhelming and set students up to fail before they have even taken the test. For example, students may be so stressed out during the test that their thinking and logic may be hindered, when in actuality they are intelligent on the subject.
4. Flex your routines – More often than not, curveballs can happen. Teachers need to be willing to set aside well-laid plans in individualize instruction. I will enact this in my classroom by never allowing my students to see my discomfort in the classroom. My confidence in the situation will ultimately rub off onto my students.
5. Make it safe to fail – In an equitable classroom, there is no need to struggle and failure. In actuality, struggle and failure should be normalized in the classroom and even celebrated at times. This will promoted in my future classroom by having my students meet in groups once a week and share something they struggled with and what they learned in the process. This strategy can help students understand and discover the subject in a new sense.