Roots of Educational Inequity

What the Research Says

In addressing the structural and procedural roots of educational inequity, it’s important to consider historic patterns of allocating both financial and human resources in inequitable ways. Data on district funding across the country has confirmed that high-poverty schools receive less money than more affluent schools within the same district and across districts (Bireda, 2011; Equity and Excellence Commission, 2013; Hall & Ushomirsky, 2010). Although research is not conclusive about the correlation of funding disparities and student achievement, there is “broad agreement about the clear need for additional resources to deliver rigorous academic standards to students living in high-poverty districts” (Equity and Excellence Commission, 2013). School and district leaders need to understand how to allocate resources that meet the most pressing needs of their district. An ECS Education Leadership Policy Toolkit provides some guidelines for doing this.

Lack of access to effective teachers and high-quality curriculum and coursework are two ways resources are distributed inequitably. For example, data from a biennial survey of 7,000 districts with 72,000 schools showed that 3,000 of these schools didn’t offer Algebra 2 classes. Distribution of effective teachers is another major issue. Schools that primarily serve black students are twice as likely to have teachers with only one or two years of experience, as compared with schools in the same district with mostly white students. This impacts student achievement as indicated in a recent brief from the Institute of Education Sciences. The brief analyzed three studies and found that on average, disadvantaged students receive less effective teaching in a given year than nondisadvantaged students. This average disparity in teaching effectiveness “was equivalent to about four weeks of learning for reading and two weeks for math.” A Center for Great Teachers and Leaders brief outlines strategies for schools, districts, and state leaders to ensure equitable distribution of teachers, including attention to equitable recruitment, hiring and placement of teachers.