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Where are the ‘agents of equity’ taking us?

Rick Hess of the American Enterprise Institute wonders in a recent Education Week column if he is “anti-equity” — because he’s against canceling advanced math courses and favors common-sense graduation requirement and school discipline policies.

Progressive states like California and Oregon are engaged in such; in the name of “equity” the former “sought to eliminate advanced-math classes and bar kids from 8th grade algebra,” while the latter repealed a requirement that high schoolers pass basic skills tests in reading, writing, and math before graduation.

How are these in any way equitable? And how does out-of-control behavior in classrooms advance the concept?

Hess says he can think of nothing more inequitable than “the suggestion that it’s fine for [Black, Latino, Latina, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, Tribal, and students of color] to graduate without being able to read.”

What’s more, he says “for a term that gets used in every mission statement and school district missive, every other research article, and every third education headline, it’s remarkably hard to get a straight answer on what ‘equity’ actually means.”

Ultimately, “equity” is often treated as a magic word—it’s all the good stuff. If something is dumb or destructive then, by definition, it’s not a manifestation of equity. Here’s the thing: Too often, that doesn’t strike me as a fair or accurate description of how equity plays out in practice. I think we’re at the point where that term obscures more than it reveals.

I think we’d be better off if we treated the term “equity” like the term “innovation” (which I encourage educators to regard as a four-letter word) and instead focus on what we actually mean.

If the belief in students working hard, turning assignments in on time, respecting their teachers, and feeling challenged makes him an “opponent of ‘equity,’” Hess says “so be it.”

IMAGE: Kunst Bilder/Shutterstock.com

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