Equity in education means that personal or social circumstances such as gender, ethnic origin or family background, are not obstacles to achieving educational potential and outcomes. The term equity refers to the principle of fairness. While it is often used interchangeably with the related principle of equality, equity encompasses a wide variety of educational models, programs, and strategies that may be considered fair, but not necessarily equal.

Despite a documented history of inequality in educational practices resulting in disparate student outcomes, rates of discipline disproportionality by race/ethnicity have increased over time, primarily for African American students. One of the first steps to address this issue is staff becoming aware of their personal bias which come in two main forms: explicit bias and implicit bias (McIntosh, Girvan, Horner, & Smolkowski, 2014). Every person has bias. Explicit bias, or conscious bias, can be addressed directly through policy school (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). Implicit bias is a form of unconscious and unintended discrimination that includes over reliance on stereotypes to make decisions. Because we are unaware of implicit bias in our decisions, a promising way to reduce its effects is to identify specific situations where biased decisions are more likely to occur and teach strategies aligned with our shared values for equity.

The good news is once teachers are aware of their own bias, they can be taught practices to improve the impact of instruction so students with a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds can benefit.

  • Use data such as office discipline data and suspensions to:
    • 1. Identify the problem of disproportionality (i.e., “Is there a problem?”)
    • 2. Analyze the problem (i.e., “Why is it happening?”)
    • 3. Develop an implementation plan specific to this issue (i.e., “What should be done?”)
    • 4. Evaluate the plan (i.e., “Is the plan working?”)
  • Teachers can improve the impact of instruction so students with a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds can benefit through the use of explicit instruction, assessing background knowledge, using opportunities to respond and giving high rates of performance feedback.
  • Use effective instruction to reduce the achievement gap.
  • Implement School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (SW-PBS) to build a foundation of prevention.
  • Collect, use, and report disaggregated student discipline data.
  • Develop policies with accountability for disciplinary equity.
  • Teach neutralizing routines for vulnerable decision points.
  • Become aware of your personal culture and values.
  • Full implementation of SW-PBS will ensure cultural responsiveness.

The National Center for Positive Behavior and Intervention Support Equity PageThese resources include policy guides, guides for teachers, a data decision making process for teams and more.
Source: Using Discipline Data within SWPBIS to Identify and Address Disproportionality: A Guide for School Teams McIntosh, Barnes, A., Eliason, B., & Morris, K. (2014)