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Equity and Excellence Definitions

Before the Board adopted an Equity policy, there were numerous definitions of equity that the Board reviewed.

Equity Policy Statement (Adopted September 11th)

We believe that equity is a set of actions that results in educational excellence not determined by differences of race, sex or economic status.

Equity is not the same as equality. Whereas, equality provides the same resources throughout the system on a per capita basis, equity demands allocation of resources based on need and support for each student's success.

Therefore, in order to achieve equity in serving our students, AUSD will factor in student needs when making decisions regarding resource allocations.

See the September 11, 2007 BOE Meeting for a prior vesion of the Equity Policy.

National Equity Report Card

Other Definitions

Eduational Equity (Dr. Edwin Javius, CEO EdEquity, 2010)

Education Equity is the belief quality instruction for all students will be achieved when the  results of deliberate actions to close the racial achievement gap becomes the driving force of the organization; by pushing the top performing students to accelerate achievement for all students.

Educational Equity (Dr. Tom Andersen, Iowa Department of Education)

is defined as: "The condition that exists when educational programs challenge the learners, regardless of their race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or socioeconomic status, to perform at the boundary of their individual abilities and to test and extend their limits in school, at home and at work. This condition reflects fairness, justice and high expectations for all learners and provides alternatives to help students reach them."

Educational Equity - (Equity Principles - Utah Schools)

quality of the educational experiences are equal and of high standards.

Equity (Equity 2000, Jones, 1994a)

Equity 2000 views equity as more than a philosophy. A serious commitment to promoting equity in Amercian education goes beyond changing values and attitudes, to changing policies and programs that affect student participation and achievement, ultimately influencing outcomes and results. Generally, equity is a set of actions that produces results that are nor determined by differences of race, sex or economic status. In education, equity requires actions that improve educational experiences and set high expectations of success for all students.

Equity (American Hertiage Dictonary)

In an educational setting, equity can be expanded to indicate a state in which all children - minorities and nonminorities, males and females, successful students and those who have fallen behind, and students who have been denied access in the past - have equal opportunities to learn, to participate in challenging programs, and to have equal access to the services they need in order to benefit from that education.

Equity (Ed Porter, Noli-Porter Associates, 2003 revised 2006)

Educational equity is a system's guarantee or assurance that all students, regardless of their race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or socioeconomic status, will succeed proportional to their demographic representation in the system's student population. It includes: (1) rigourous teaching and learning; (2) culturally/racially proficient behaviors and practices by all adults and students, and (3) facilitation of equal access to the best the system has to offer.

Equity (Glenn Singleton, Pacific Education Group, 1991, CA)

Achieving equity requires ....that we raise the achievement level of ALL students, narrow the gap between the highest and lowest achieving student populations, and eliminate the racial predicability and disproportionality of which student populations of which student populations occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories.

The term equity has a number of different meanings (Century, 1994; Secada, 1994b). Below are definitions that represent various perspectives on equity in the context of high expectations for all students.

Equity as opportunity to learn

"Equality refers to 'sameness.' Students are the same in that they have the ability to learn.

"Excellence refers to 'highness.' There exists a hierarchy of levels of achievement (expectations, standards, etc.). . . . [T]he high point of these levels . . . 'excellence' . . . we hold out as a goal.

"Equity refers to 'fairness.' We should have the same high expectations/standards for all students (equality of excellence). However, even though they may all have the ability to learn, students do so in different ways; they have their own particular strengths and weaknesses. Thus to be fair (i.e., give all students the opportunity to achieve excellence) we must provide an educational environment that meets their needs. This means that we need to be flexible with our educational programs; the exact same instruction, curriculum, or assessment does not work with all students." (Laboratory Network Program, 1993)

Equity as a vision of a community of learning The Holmes Group (1990) (cited in Century, 1994) describes school as a place "where everybody's children participate in making knowledge and meaning - where each child is a valued member of a community of learning."

Nine Principles on Equity and Educational Testing and Assessment

The following statement was developed by a group of educational leaders seeking to ensure that concerns for equity would be reflected in all efforts at assessment reform. Since the statement was articulated, it has been signed by educational policymakers, measurement scientists, educational researchers, school administrators, and experts on equity and diversity who represent a variety of perspectives and expertise. Although these leaders have not always agreed on the particulars of assessment reform, they have unanimously supported the need to address equity and excellence in tandem as assessment reform moves forward.

As policymakers move forward to develop new standards and assessments, they should consider including the following principles, which will help to ensure that both equity and quality are dominant themes:

  1. New assessments should be field tested with the nation's diverse population in order to demonstrate that they are fair and valid and that they are suitable for policymakers to use as levers to improve outcomes before they are promoted for widespread use by American society.
  2. New standards and tests should accurately reflect and represent the skills and knowledge that are needed for the purposes for which they will be used.
  3. New content standards and assessments in different fields should involve a development process in which America's cultural and racial minorities are participants.
  4. New policies for standards and assessments should reflect the understanding that standards and assessments represent only two of many interventions required to achieve excellence and equity in American education. Equity and excellence can only be achieved if all educators dedicate themselves to their tasks and are given the resources they need.
  5. New standards and assessments should offer a variety of options in the way students are asked to demonstrate their knowledge and skills, providing a best possible opportunity for each student to perform.
  6. New standards and assessments should include guidelines for intended and appropriate use of the results and a review mechanism to ensure that the guidelines are respected.
  7. New policies should list the existing standards and assessments that the new standards and assessments should replace (e.g., Chapter 1 standards and tests, state-mandated student standards and tests) in order to avoid unnecessary and costly duplication and to avoid overburdening schools, teachers and students who already feel saturated by externally mandated tests.
  8. New policies need to reflect the understanding by policymakers of the tradeoff between the types of standards and assessments needed for monitoring the progress of school systems and the nation versus the types of standards and assessments needed by teachers to improve teaching and learning. The attention and resources devoted to the former may compete for the limited resources available for research and development for the latter.
  9. New policies to establish standards and assessments should feature teachers prominently in the development process.

Excellence Through Equity: Principles for Instructional Design

Wexford Institute
  1. Clear and High Expectations for All Learners
  2. Principle 1 PDF

    Successful learning focuses on important concepts that are aligned with standards, learning goals, assessment and rigorous content. Students and their families are involved in setting clear expectations for each learner.

  3. Learning in a Social Context
  4. Principle 2 PDF

    Classroom values, norms, student–teacher and student–student interactions create an environment that supports all learners. This learning environment provides all students with opportunities to successfully demonstrate their learning, to see themselves and be seen by others as effective learners. Differences in power relationships, culture, language, gender, physical and learning are addressed.

  5. Inclusion: Connecting with Each Student
  6. Principle 3 PDF

    Lessons or units of instruction address standards and learning goals, as well as meet the unique learning strengths, needs and styles of each student. By accommodating the diverse languages, cultural backgrounds, gender differences, learning styles and exceptionalities, each student’s potential for learning is maximized. Teachers examine and exercise flexibility as they analyze student data and student work, and take on the roles of mentor, facilitator, and manager of learning strategies.

  7. Developing Language in Context
  8. Principle 4 PDF

    Learners acquire language best through learning experiences that are meaningful to them. Lessons or units of instruction reflect the variety of language levels of the students, utilize the students’ own language, utilize informal and formal English, as appropriate, and include intentional academic language development through oral language, reading and writing.

  9. Making the Invisible Visible & Fostering
  10. Principle 5 PDF

    Learning opportunities include accurate representations of peoples and cultures who have been omitted from the school curriculum and technological resources or who have been misrepresented by social prejudice and stereotypes. Learning strategies that foster imagination and encourage the exploration of different points of view and challenge assumptions with approaches such as inquiry, problem based and conflict resolution, provide opportunities to better understand the perspectives of others. These approaches lead to a myriad of different, often unexpected, outcomes and solutions.

  11. Critical Teaching and Learning
  12. Principle 6 PDF

    Learning activities help students develop respect for diversity and fairness, and promote taking action that demonstrates these qualities. Core aspects of this principle include critical thinking, active listening and democratic action. By relating these elements to issues of privilege, power and inequity, learners respond to and pose problems that lead to participatory and democratic action.

  13. Validating Achievement through Assessment
  14. Principle 7 PDF

    Learners are engaged and motivated by using day–to–day classroom assessments that are embedded in curriculum. Students are involved in reviewing and assessing their work, and both teacher and students use these assessment results to improve instruction and learning by establishing clear, concise learning targets. Open-ended responses from students provide teachers with insight into the multiple ways that students grasp new learning as well as how students’ cultural preferences play a role in their understanding. In addition, norm referenced testing provides students, their families and the school a way to assess student progress based on a standard measure.

ResourceEducational Equity and Excellence At Scale

Key Components of Educational Equity


- All students should be provided equal opportunity to participate in all aspects of the educational process. Access refers to both physical and institutional access to learning facilities, resources, and curricular programs.

Legislation alone cannot establish equal access to schools, courses, and activities. Access problems still occur even though virtually all districts have taken measures to comply with nondiscrimination laws. To meet the diverse needs of all students, some of whom require specific skills to access the school curriculum, compensatory policies and practices are necessary to ensure equal participation in school programs by all groups.

Following are some examples of teaching strategies that help each student overcome barriers that prevent him or her from achieving the same level of learning as the class as a whole:

  • Make additional computer time available at school for those students who don't have access to a computer at home
  • Give extra encouragement to female and minority students, especially in subjects such as math, science, and computers, where they may be less confident
  • Give high-needs students the extra time and instruction they need to succeed. Support the social and academic resiliency of high-needs students
  • When students work together, make sure their groups are diverse and that all members have an opportunity to take active roles
  • Ensure that all students have a chance to answer questions that require reasoning or problem solving. Avoid asking technical questions only of certain students


- Instruction includes and extends beyond materials, interactions and language. Although teachers are required to follow the adopted texts when planning their lessons, they have latitude in how the material is presented, what topics are emphasized, what assignments are given, and what supplemental materials are used. Teachers' lack of awareness about equity concepts can result in promoting a biased perspective. An equitable outlook can be sustained through the use of instructional materials that promote positive images of diverse groups and the strong commitment to an equitable approach to teaching and learning.

Equity and multicultural education are not separate subjects to be added to a multifaceted curriculum and busy workday, and do not add more content to the curriculum. Rather, equity and multiculturalism require teachers to rethink and reconceptualize the content being taught, and to use bias-free instructional methods to create inclusive lessons in every subject area.

Following are strategies for equitable instruction under the topics of learning and teaching styles, confronting bias and stereotypes in the classroom, and respect for diversity.

Learning and Teaching Styles - Some students may not be comfortable with the traditional style of teaching: lecturing at length from the front of a classroom. Many respond more readily to personal interaction, hands-on activities, and small-group discussions. Learning styles are often culturally determined. For example: Native people in general are accustomed to learning by listening to elders and tend to conceal individual knowledge. Many African Americans and students from Latino cultures are used to a more social learning style, talking and interacting with family and community members in small groups.

A teacher's goal should be to explore various teaching styles to meet the needs of individual students and to further the learning of the class as a whole:

Incorporate hands-on learning, a method that appeals to almost all students. Learning by doing works especially well for technical subjects such as mathematics or science where observable reality is used to explain abstract concepts or formulas. Hands-on experience is also effective in breaking down language barriers to learning.

Break students into small-groups for discussion and problem solving activities. Generally groups should be composed of students of mixed abilities and cultures, but groups can also be arranged to permit the use of home languages when appropriate.

Whenever possible, make connections between subject matter and the lives of students. This can be done by providing culturally meaningful examples and analogies to help

students make the link between their prior experiences and new knowledge.

Confronting Bias and Stereotypes in the Classroom - Teachers cannot control all of the messages students receive but they can confront bias and stereotyping in their schools and classrooms:

  • Establish a clear policy prohibiting racial or sexual harassment and enforce it.
  • Point out other instances of cultural or sex discrimination or bias as they occur in class and correct them. Discuss them in a nonthreatening, supportive way.
  • Use examples of bias found in classroom materials as prompts for discussing discrimination and bias. Bring in materials such as newspaper or magazine articles or advertising to use as examples of bias. Involve students by asking them to identify examples of bias and discrimination they observe inside and outside class.
  • Respect for Diversity - Teachers in multicultural classrooms can take advantage of the diversity of their students to enrich their learning experiences. Some ways to accomplish this include:

    Celebrate diverse cultural, religious, and national holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, International Women's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah. Involve students in preparations and presentations.

    Explore cultural celebrations or observances of life transitions or rites of passage, such as weddings, graduations, bar mitzvahs, first rice celebrations (South Asia), birthdays, wakes, and so forth. Enlist the aid of students who experience these celebrations as part of their own cultures. Explore different cultural expressions in the arts, such as music, dance, drama, film, and visual arts. Invite local multicultural artists to make presentations in the class.

    Involve the whole class in discussions and appreciation of these presentations. Ask students whether they see similarities to their own cultures.

    Be sure to emphasize that all people have a culture. Include all students in discussions of cultural heritage and background.

    By respecting and celebrating diversity, all students have a broadened appreciation of culture and experience the positive side of diversity. Students also experience an affirmation of their own cultures and can take pride in sharing with the rest of the class.


    - Textbooks, audiovisual, and other materials should be reviewed to minimize bias in their content, graphics, pictures, and language. Examples of subtle and not-so-subtle bias in materials range from science textbooks illustrated with only White male researchers to absent or minimal discussion of the historical contributions of some cultural groups or women of all races.

    Some teaching strategies that help to minimize bias and the effect of bias in materials include:

    • Screen all materials used in class for bias.
    • Replace biased materials with bias-free materials.
    • If bias cannot be eliminated, note its presence and use it as an opportunity to discuss bias and stereotyping in class.
    • Include contributions from non-European sources to provide a balanced study of world cultures. Include the past and present experiences of people of color and women in studies of current events, economics, government, history, social studies, and science.


    - Ingrained attitudes are not changed overnight. Biased or prejudiced attitudes may be unintentional but nevertheless can result in discriminatory behavior that can affect student performance. Such attitudes may be exhibited on the part of everyone involved in the educational process. Holding lower expectations for some students can perpetuate lower academic performance and inhibit student success.

    Examples of biased attitudes that can result in low performance include:

    • Most lower-income, ethnic minority, LEP, and lower-achieving students will not go on to college
    • Boys are more interested in mathematics, science, computers, and other technology than girls
    • Lower-achieving students aren't really interested in school and consume valuable class time that could be more profitably spent on serious students

    Some strategies to minimize the impact of biased attitudes are:

    • Be aware of your own attitudes and how they may influence how you treat students.
    • Make a conscious effort to prevent biased attitudes from influencing your interactions with students.
    • Examine problematic relationships with students to determine whether bias is a factor.
    • Educate yourself on how biased attitudes are formed. Seek out examples that counter stereotypes and biased attitudes.
    • Model appropriate behavior and confront biased remarks and actions of students.


    - Interactions are perhaps the greatest influence on self esteem, self-confidence, and motivation. Interactions with classmates, staff, especially teachers, can have a profound effect on a student's enthusiasm and ability to learn. Interactions are shaped by attitudes, and teachers are often unaware that they may relate to students differently depending on their race, gender, ethnicity, ability, or other factors.

    Examples of biased interactions include:

    Displaying lower expectations for students of color or female students. Praising girls' work for neatness while remarking on the content of boys' work.

    Taking disciplinary action that is more frequently directed toward particular groups of students or avoiding discipline of certain groups. Inconsistent and disproportional discipline can lower morale.

    Some teaching strategies to avoid bias in interactions are:

    • Demonstrate the same high expectations for all students. Communicate these expectations regularly and challenge all students equally in terms of both performance and effort.
    • When asking questions in class, don't always call on the first students to raise their hands. Give less confident students more time to raise their hands and to respond. Also call on students who never raise their hands.
    • Establish a routine for class discussions so that all students participate on a rotating basis.
    • Encourage students to speak up if they feel excluded.
    • Always apply discipline with an even hand, based only on misbehavior and not on other factors. Notice which students you tend to treat with leniency and adjust this behavior.
    • Pay attention to your interactions with all students but especially with students who don't participate in class or those with whom you have a difficult relationship.
    • Monitor your use of praise. Make certain all students are reinforced equally for their work and effort.


    - Bias in language is a subtle but powerful influence in creating or reinforcing prejudicial attitudes. Bias occurs in both vocabulary and usage. For example, using generic masculine occupational titles and pronouns presents an unreal picture of the workplace and can limit aspirations because people, especially children, tend to take language literally.

    Language can convey biased or ethnocentric attitudes. For example:

    Identifying people by race or ethnic group unless it is relevant. One doesn't usually point out that an individual is White or of European American heritage. The same rule should apply to all groups.

    Using the term "non-White" for people of color, which sets up White culture as the standard by which all other cultures should be judged. When appropriate, use "non-minority" to refer to Whites.

    Using "culturally disadvantaged" and "culturally deprived." These terms imply that the dominant culture is superior to other cultures or that other groups lack a culture.

    Some strategies for minimizing bias in language are:

    • Watch your own language and usage in class -- for example, using "girls" to refer to adult women
    • Become informed about nonbiased alternatives and use them at school
    • Screen materials used in class for biased
    • Take advantage of opportunities to point out biased language in a productive and nonblaming way


    - Ensuring both equity and excellence in school settings requires the use of assessment that accounts for variances in student learning styles and cultural backgrounds and is effectively aligned with school curricula, instruction, and systemic improvement goals. Traditional, uniform measures of assessment alone, such as standardized tests, are not sufficient to gage the full breadth of students' skills or to use as a basis for formative, "high stakes" educational decisions. Depending solely on these indicators often presents an inaccurate reflection of student performance due to inherent bias in test questions or to the unintended measurement of certain skills, e.g., a math test designed so that success depends not only on the skills the school intends to measure, but also on other skills, such as language proficiency.

    Following are strategies for implementing equitable assessment and using assessment outcomes to achieve equity and excellence schoolwide:

    • Use multiple assessment strategies and combine traditional forms of assessment with alternative or performance-based models. Various forms of performance-based assessment include, teacher observation, oral assessment, work sampling, student portfolios, and student self-assessment.
    • Ensure all assessments are developed to measure the skills intended and to guard against outcomes reflecting differences in student experiences, cultural values, language abilities, or the quality of education received.
    • Ensure appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities and students who may be limited in their level of English proficiency.
    • Emphasize individual student strengths and growth over time and avoid student-to-student comparisons.
    • Disaggregate school and classroom data. Use all data to inform school improvement efforts, identify needed changes in curriculum and instruction, and guide equitable resource allocation.


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    Last modified: August 29, 2007

    Disclaimer: This website is the sole responsibility of Mike McMahon. It does not represent any official opinions, statement of facts or positions of the Alameda Unified School District. Its sole purpose is to disseminate information to interested individuals in the Alameda community.