Equity in Education

Learn what equity in education is and how to implement strategies that will narrow the achievement gap.

What is equity in education?

Equity in education is the process of reforming practices, policies, and procedures at the school and district levels to support academic fairness and inclusion and ensure that every child has the resources, teachers, interventions, and supports they need to be successful.

In more simple terms, we like this quote on equity from Dr. Keith Bell:

“Those that need more, get more.”

Equity versus Equality

The terms “Equality” and “Equity” may seem the same at face value, but the truth is “Equity” is NOT the Same as “Equality.”

Here’s how the two terms are different:


Equality is providing the same opportunities to all students.


Equity is giving specific resources and support to disadvantaged students to bring them up to the same opportunity level as their peers.

We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else.

President Barack Obama

Why is Equity in Education Important?

Just because you don’t see the direct impact of inequity in education does not mean you are unaffected.

Achieving equity in education isn’t just the right thing to do…

Equity has a significant impact on the strength and prosperity of local, state, and national economies. By improving education outcomes for underserved student groups, we can:

  • Increase net economic benefits to society
  • Save billions of dollars in public assistance programs
  • Reduce crime rates
  • Increase property and per capita values

Other terms you’ll hear or read that are closely linked to equity in education:

Underserved Students

The student groups who do not receive the same opportunities as their peers. This could be due to a variety of factors.

The most commonly referenced underserved student groups are students who are from ethnic and/or racial minority backgrounds, low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, or those who are first-generation English Language Learners.

It’s important to note, any sub-group of students can be underserved. Other examples include boys/girls, LGBT students, foster students, students whose parent(s) don’t have a college degree, students in remote rural areas, and many more.

Opportunity Gap

The term opportunity gap refers to the difference in resources and opportunities afforded to underserved students versus their peers.

For example, minority students may be subjected to unfair biases. English language learners may not be able to comprehend course material as easily as native language speakers. Students from low socioeconomic backgrounds may not have the money to pay for tutoring.

Achievement Gap

Similar to the term opportunity gap, however it more specifically refers to the difference in academic grades or standardized test scores between underserved students and their peers.

A simple example— perhaps lower-income students on average have 10% lower grades than their more affluent peers.

Aggregated Data

The big-picture view of data, or summarized data. A school district’s overall graduation rate or performance on standardized tests would be an example of aggregate data.

Disaggregated Data

Data that has been broken down from aggregate data into smaller subpopulations to discover hidden insights about student groups.

For example, data can be broken down by gender, race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status to measure how these groups might differ regarding factors such as attendance rate, test scores, GPA, graduation rate and more.

Disaggregate data, together with aggregate data, is how educators can measure the narrowing or broadening of the achievement gap.

How do you identify underserved students at your school or district?

Identifying underserved students can be a demanding task. Getting to know each of your students is critical, and this can take time.

Sure, you can use common sense to guess which students you serve need the most help, but to really get a clear picture of where students need support, digging into the data is necessary.

Not only to ensure that your presumptions are correct, but also to establish baseline metrics.


Step 1

Evaluate your data system to ensure it provides adequate features for collecting, organizing, and analyzing data at granular levels.

Step 2

Establish student performance indicators.

Step 3

Expand dimensions of equity to disaggregate data.

Equitable Strategies for the Classroom, School, and District

Equity in education requires the contribution of educators at every level, from teachers and school counselors, to principals and superintendents.

Here are a few ways schools can improve equity:

  •  Diversify school staff.
  • Create alternative disciplinary actions (when appropriate) that keep kids in the classroom.
  • Build a support team that includes community partners to ensure underserved students get support outside of the classroom.
  • Implement culturally-relevant teaching practices.
  • Be aware of stereotypes and implicit biases and work to address them.

For additional strategies, make sure to download our ebook.

Measuring Equity and Making Improvements

Most schools know that it’s important to enact strategies that provide additional resources and support to underserved student groups.

One of the most important aspects of creating programs and interventions that help students is measuring impact and doing so continuously throughout the school year.

So, if a program is created to help students from low socioeconomic backgrounds who are struggling at math, you can check the progress of the students in this program a month down the road to see if they are improving. This will help determine if the program has helped them. (Learning Circle makes this process easy).

From here you can course correct if the results aren’t as expected or expand the program/intervention if it’s working out well.

Ready to learn even more about Equity in Education?

If so, make sure you download our comprehensive ebook Equity in Education: Everything You Need to Know.