Aug 272017

I have been listening carefully lately whenever I hear the word “Equity” used by teachers. I haven’t engaged with these definitions, just listened to how the teachers are using the word so I can understand what they are saying. I am learning that we are not using the word in the same way at all.

When I think if equity, I think along the direction CMC does:

Equity via California Math Council via

The other day, I heard another definition that I had not encountered. The (paraphrased) quote was, “It is important that we think of equity in our classrooms, so that a B in one section with one teacher means the same thing if that student transfers to a different class in the same school or different school. We have to think of equity in our classrooms.”

The word ‘equity’ was specifically mentioned twice. The teacher meant to use the word.

I have a trouble reconciling this meaning of equity with the meanings outlined in the graphic above, unless we push it into “achievement.” But the text for ‘achievement’ doesn’t easily allow for this definition. The text is “What are some of my beliefs, expectations, behaviors and practices, and tools that ensure mathematics proficiency for every student?” Maybe, but it is not obvious where consistency in grading practices across teachers is an equity issue. It appears to me it may be more of an equality issue, not equity.

Clearly, equity is a term that needs to be given some additional context so we are speaking to the same topic.

My huge takeaway? Listen more and listen for understanding, not responding. I learn more that way.

  4 Responses to “Equity: Another definition”

  1. That’s more like rater reliability to me. It’s certainly a good idea to have some common understanding of what grades mean with out colleagues, though I fear I don’t. What would these teachers call what you (we) call equity?

  2. I don’t know, John. In the course of the conversation, “equity” was said 4 times, and every time in this context. It really was like they were completely misusing the word.

    My initial concern is that when this word is misused so badly, it makes it harder to have a conversation about Equity in the real sense.

  3. It has also been my experience that people mean all sorts of different things when they use the word equity… to me it feels like a “lowest common denominator” term, in that we can all agree we want equity, even though we may not agree on what it means or how to get there. In case it’s helpful I wrote this about some different academic perspectives on equity, but I think there’s work to be done cataloguing different ways it’s used by practitioners.

  4. I agree grace. It is why I just listened instead of butting in, because there is something interesting in how everyone uses the term. It also means that when we talk about equity, we need to be very clear and define what we mean up front, to cut off any misunderstandings which may arise.

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