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Understanding education buzz words...

I think there is consensus nationwide from the national level all the way down to the local level that we have a big job ahead of us to fix the problems we are facing in PreK-12 education. There are also a lot of buzz words out there and it is vital that we are all on the same page as to what those words mean.

Reality is knowing where PK-12 now, warts and all. It's not pretty. Acknowledging the issues is where we have to start. Our educational system is in disarray because of how schools are funded. Where you live determines the quality of your education.

Equality means that every student at every schools get the same education. Many districts throughout the country think this is the answer, and so they put the same funding, the same curriculum, the same professional development, the same everything. The problem is that even schools in the same district have a different demographic of student. What works for students in one school does not necessarily work for students in another school because they come to school with different abilities, needs and backgrounds.

Equity is what we need in education. Equity means that everyone is given what they need to achieve the same goal. Reaching students with different abilities, needs and backgrounds requires unique solutions. One size will never fit all. Schools should be treated as individual entities within a district by allowing them the autonomy to tailor how they teach their students. In my research, I found an amazing district in Jefferson County (JC), Kentucky who understands equity. In their commitment to recruit and retain teachers of color, JC has teachers and administration fill out surveys at the end of each school year. The district then allows each school's administrators and teachers to determine their focus for the year. Each school might have a different focus, but that makes sense because each school has different students. Unfortunately too many districts assume equality means equity, leaving teachers frustrated and students without the tools they need to succeed.

Justice is the endgame for education. This is when barriers are completely removed for all students and the playing field is level. Currently, districts get some federal money, some state money, and the rest if determined by property taxes in the district. It means that urban and rural districts are typically underfunded while suburban districts are well-funded. Until we change that system of school funding, we will not have justice. Finland schools are a model of how it can be done. The quality of school in Finland does not depend on where the school is located. Schools with populations that need more assistance due to higher percentage of immigrants or special needs students receive more money for services. A prime example of how equity can lead to justice.

Knowing the proper use of these terms is how we can start making progress.

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