Build Educational Equity and Develop Students’ Confidence
In its finest form, education is a path to prepare students to read, write, and speak with confidence. The conversation about how to achieve those outcomes for all students is much more complex. During the edLeader Panel, “Expanding Educational Equity: A New Paradigm to Ensure Literacy for All,” Kerri Larkin, Senior Education Advisor at Lexia Learning, walked us through a step-by-step process to build equitable literacy programs that develop students’ confidence.
Larkin began by breaking down how literacy programs have developed in the United States, beginning with decentralized efforts that were limited by the local resources available to schools. Throughout the 20th century, she explained, multiple national initiatives streamlined teachers’, leaders’, advocates’, and parents’ goals to ensure more students had access to opportunities to attend public school and could receive a better quality education.
Initiatives such as Brown v. Board of Education and the development of the Common Core have helped to level the playing field, but it is still painfully clear that zip code and race are two of the strongest determiners of student success. We still have a long way to go to reach educational equity, and today, that goal requires using a multi-tiered approach.
Lexia Learning’s goal is to create opportunities for the literacy of every student. Educational equity is defined by the National Equity Project as, “…each child receives what they need to develop their full academic and social potential.” It is a systems-based approach that focuses on institutional change and measures outcomes in terms of student achievement.
There are three parts to the instructional core: students, teachers, and content. Lexia Learning’s focus is to strengthen the instructional core by focusing on three main pillars: instructional equity, cultural equity, and digital equity. Larkin explained what each of those pillars means.
Our brains are not hardwired to read. Therefore, effective instruction by teachers who understand the Science of Reading is crucial for student success. A clear understanding of how the Science of Reading leads to structured literacy and how to apply these teaching principles has shown that the 95% of students who are capable of learning to read can build this skill set. Teachers must engage this framework in order to ensure their students have positive outcomes, such as reading at or above grade level.
Culturally responsive pedagogy is another important pillar to connect with students. At its core, it is rigorous, affirming, inclusive, and relevant to students who come from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds. The goal is to build student autonomy and agency by exposing them to relevant content and giving them opportunities to express their voices. Using developmentally appropriate materials that reflect their skills, interests, and backgrounds is a huge benefit to boost student engagement.
The goal of digital equity is to improve and invest in the experience of all users. Usually, we begin by thinking about accessibility for those with learning disabilities who are most vulnerable. But truly, educational technology must be accessible to all students and should supplement, not replace, the teacher in the classroom. The technology should generate meaningful, actionable data that allows targeted improvement in instruction.
When done well, this technology can address learning gaps and help teachers to diagnose students’ gaps in learning. In the classroom, it can be student led, but teachers must monitor progress and intervene based on the results of the data. In order to ensure it is accessible for all students, educators can look at the WCAG, VPAT, and NIMAS guidelines before engaging it.
The conversation post-pandemic has circled around how to mix technology and print materials, while still keeping peer-to-peer relationships and “human-centered” relationships at the center of education. Teachers have struggled with how to balance traditional instruction with the implementation of edtech, and districts are currently working to create strategies for integrating data into the instructional technology to make it clear, easy to integrate, and effective in improving outcomes for all students. Once this is achieved, it will be easier to ensure that equity is centered in the instructional core.
Key Takeaways to Ensure Educational Equity
- We must define our terms to better measure our progress
- Align resources, experiences, and instruction to the Science of Reading
- Enshrine student and teacher wellness through culturally responsive pedagogy
- Combine learning experiences through purposeful technology, rich text, and peer collaboration
Learn more about this edWeb broadcast, “Expanding Educational Equity: A New Paradigm to Ensure Literacy for All,” sponsored by Lexia Learning.
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Leading for Equity is a free professional learning community for school and district leaders who face many challenges leading schools and driving school improvement for all students, especially now with COVID-19.
Lexia® Learning, a Cambium® company, is one of the most impactful and highly respected reading-technology companies in the world. Founded over 35 years ago, Lexia’s research-proven programs help educators deliver personalized reading and language instruction for millions of K–12 students across the world.
Blog post by Laura Smulian, based on this edLeader Panel