Teaching About Educational Inequality

Introduction

Educational inequality is the unequal distribution of academic resources, including school funding, experienced teachers, textbooks, and technology. The communities lacking these resources are generally populated with groups that have been historically oppressed. Teaching about educational inequality is important because it will give students the chance to learn about the unequal opportunities for educational success depending on race, income, and other factors. In order for changes in our education system to be made to provide a more equal education to all students in the future, young students today need to be informed about the issue!

Resources

There are many resources available online for teaching students about educational inequality. Our nation is a democracy, but by not providing equal education for all members of society, we are going against our fundamental beliefs, which is why students should learn about this inequality and advocate for change!

Lesson Plans

  1. Still Separate, Still Unequal: Teaching about School Segregation and Educational Inequality: The New York Times has put together a lesson plan to help educators teach about school segregation and educational inequality. There are six activities provided that consider how and why schools are still segregated in 2019, what repercussions do segregated schools have for students and society, and what the potential remedies to address school segregation are. For educators who plan to spend several class periods on educational inequality, this resource provides very detailed lessons that educators can easily tailor to their own classrooms’ needs!
  2. Strategies for an Equal Education – Lesson Plan: PBS LearningMedia offers a lesson on strategies for an equal education. In the lesson, students will examine educational inequality for African Americans in the 20th century, look at the Fourteenth Amendment, and discuss strategies used to overcome discrimination.
  3. Visualizing School Equity: Teaching Tolerance provides a lesson on visualizing school equity that will teach students about the inequities in the education system and why those inequities exist by examining school funding. The lesson includes objectives, essential questions, materials, vocabulary, a suggested procedure, and an extension activity. For educators who are looking for a lesson that focuses on how the funding gap between districts with many students of color and districts with few students of color creates educational inequality, this resource is perfect!
  4. Inequality in Education Funding: PBS NewsHour offers a lesson plan on the inequality in education funding. Students will watch a four-minute video and complete a worksheet on why education funding is so unfair in Pennsylvania. Afterwards, students will answer a few discussion questions as a class. There is also an extension activity that can be completed which will provide students with more details on the Fair Funding Formula. 

Articles

  1. Unequal Opportunity – Race and Education: Brookings has published an article on unequal opportunity which focuses on race and education. The article discusses the nature of educational inequality, what difference money makes in educational outcomes, what happens when opportunity is more equal, and what can be done to solve educational inequality. For educators who seek a detailed overview to share with their students about how race contributes to inequality in education, this article is one of the best available online!
  2. What the U.S. Education System Needs to Reduce Inequality: American University School of Education provides an article on what the U.S. education system needs to reduce inequality. This article suggests plotting a clear strategy to improve the education experience for all students and narrow the inequality gap, holding to equally rigorous standards for all classrooms, equalizing the share of resources among all school systems, etc.
  3. How To Learn More About Educational Inequity: Teach For America offers a list of must-reads and must-sees for educators who want their students to learn more about educational inequity. The recommendations are broken down into four categories based on how much class time they require. For educators who are seeking resources on educational inequity, whether they have an hour, a few hours, a few days, or longer to teach the topic, this resource will come in handy!
  4. 5 Ways Teachers Can Challenge Inequality in the Classroom: The Guardian provides five ways teachers can challenge inequality in the classroom. The article suggests that educators rethink ability grouping, checking language, making the curriculum relevant, avoiding quick-fix punishments, and nurturing relationships.
  5. Ways Teachers Can Challenge Inequality in the Classroom: Kids Academy offers an article on ways teachers can challenge inequality in the classroom. The article first explains the difference between inequity and inequality before moving onto discussing the strategies that educators can use to challenge inequality in the classroom. Some of these strategies include prioritizing relationships with all students, checking yourself and modeling acceptance and tolerance, and more!

Informational Sites

  1. 6 Myths About Educational Inequity: Teach For America provides an article that explains six common myths about educational inequity. These myths include that educational resources are equally distributed across schools, low-income children and children of color are receiving enough educational resources to succeed academically, and more. For educators who want to start off with explaining any misconceptions that their students may have about educational inequity, this resource is essential!
  2. Inequality at School: The American Psychological Association (APA) has published a cover story about inequality at school, specifically what is behind the racial disparity in our education system. This informational article discusses the evidence of disparities, the discipline divide, and interventions to reduce bias.
  3. K-12 Disparity Facts and Statistics: The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) offers nine K-12 disparity facts and statistics which will help students better understand the magnitude of educational inequality.
  4. 11 Facts About Education in America and 11 Facts About Education and Poverty in America: DoSomething.org has put together eleven facts about education in America and another eleven about education and poverty in America. From these resources, students will learn about a few of the greatest problems in our country’s education system with a focus on educational inequality!

Conclusion

Teaching about educational inequality is very important, but it can be somewhat difficult to bring up in the classroom. Depending on what type of classroom educators are teaching in, the conversation may occur differently. In classrooms where students are from minority groups or low-income communities, students are likely more aware of the educational inequality that occurs across the nation. Therefore, it is important to be sensitive when teaching the topic because students may have different experiences with access to education and academic resources. On the other hand, in classrooms where the majority students are white and from wealthier communities, students may not be aware of educational inequality because they are more privileged in this area. In these classrooms, educators may need to focus more of their time on teaching students about the root causes of educational inequality and how this type of inequality impacts communities. 

Additional Resources

  1. U.S. Education – Still Separate and Unequal: U.S. News provides an article that includes data which shows how schools today are still separate and unequal. 
  2. The Costs of Inequality – Education’s the One Key That Rules Them All: The Harvard Gazette has published an article on how education is the key to overcoming inequality, but it still remains inaccessible for millions of children. Therefore, inequality starts in education. The article goes on to explain the plateau on educational gains, the educational gap and root of inequality, zip code as a predictor of success, why better schools are needed to close the gap, and possible solutions to educational inequality. 
  3. A Decade of Research on the Rich-Poor Divide in Education: The Hechinger Report offers a column that explains the decade of research on the rich-poor divide in education. 

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