10 Steps to Equity in Education

DiversityThe Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which works to “promote the policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world,” published a Policy Briefing titled, “Ten Steps to Equity in Education.” The briefing (which you can read in its entirety here) lays out some of the basic policies necessary for achieving equity in education, as well as some fundamental elements of equity.

For example, the briefing explains two dimensions essential to equity in education:

  1. Fairness — defined as making sure that personal and social circumstances – for example gender, socio-economic status or ethnic origin – should not be an obstacle to achieving educational potential

  2. Inclusion — defined as ensuring a basic minimum standard of education for all – for example that everyone should be able to read, write and do simple arithmetic.

OECD SES Related Math Disparities OECD Struggle in ReadingThe briefing goes on to provide two charts (on the left, click to view larger versions) outlining the state of equity as reflected in achievement in math and reading. The statistics are truly sobering. For example, in the US, a student from a low SES (socio economic status) background is nearly 4 times as likely to have low math achievement as a student from a high SES background. The eye opener is that such disparity is not consistent around the globe. For example, in Iceland, a student from a low SES background is “only” twice as like to have lower math achievement than a peer with a high SES background.

So why the difference?

Proponents for pursuing equity in education suggest such disparity is a matter of policy and practice aimed at achieving fairness and inclusion. (Perhaps the yawning gap between policies that achieve fairness and inclusiveness in practice and those that don’t is the “achievement gap” we should actually be talking about.)

Below are OECD’s “10 Steps to Equity in Education” that provide something of a roadmap for achieving equity. As you read the below list, you’ll notice recommendations that are in direct conflict with current ed policy practices and some that are altogether absent from our current edu-discourse. These 10 steps may provide a big picture litmus test for looking at policies being proposed, passed and implemented at both state and federal levels.

10 Steps to Equity in Education


1. Limit early tracking and streaming and postpone academic selection.

2. Manage school choice so as to contain the risks to equity.

3. In upper secondary education, provide attractive alternatives, remove dead ends and prevent dropout.

4. Offer second chances to gain from education.


5. Identify and provide systematic help to those who fall behind at school and reduce year repetition.

6. Strengthen the links between school and home to help disadvantaged parents help their children to learn.

7. Respond to diversity and provide for the successful inclusion of migrants and minorities within mainstream education.


8. Provide strong education for all, giving priority to early childhood provision and basic schooling.

9. Direct resources to the students with the greatest needs.

10. Set concrete targets for more equity, particularly related to low school attainment and dropouts.

Image: monosodium via Morgue File
Graphs from OECD’s Policy Briefing — “10 Steps to Equity in Education” 


The Power of Outrospection

Conflict: It Won't Stop Until We TalkRoman Krznaric’s website describes him as “a cultural thinker and writer.” He speaks on a range of topics including “empathy, the history of love, the future of work, and the art of living.”

His 15-minute talk outlining elements of his book, “How to Find Fulfilling Work,” offers this bit of Aristotle wisdom:

Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.

Capitalizing on such wisdom though, requires two requisite skills: 1. Ability to see and comprehend the needs of the world, and 2. Knowing one’s strengths, affinities, and talents. Toward the latter we advocate for increasing metacognition as central to empowering learners.

The former, Dr. Krznaric targets in his persuasive “The Power of Outrospection” talk. Below is the must watch RSA Animation of this talk in which he advocates for increasing empathy — for individuals and society.

He unpacks . . .

“a revolution of human relationships . . .”

“empathizing in both space and time . . .”

“scaling up empathy . . .”

and “expanding our empathetic imaginations.”

This reframing of how we look at each other and make sense of the world offers a compelling juxtaposition to the fact and test heavy approach to education currently sweeping the nation. It offers a contextual foundation from which to transform education.

Before embracing or rejecting education policy ideas, we might put it through these litmus tests:

  • How will this action be perceived and received by students?
  • Will the design and implementation of this pedagogical policy increase students’ ability to effectively recognize and seize the moment when they have reached the intersection of their talents and the needs of the world?
  • Will this increase the empathetic thinking and actions of education leaders, teachers, and, most importantly, students?

Thanks to Chris Lehman, Founding Principal of the innovative Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia, for bringing this video to our attention. Be sure to check out the upcoming EduCon being hosted at SLA in just a few weeks. 

Image: From the RSA Animation of “The Power of Outrospection”

Hating School, Loving Learning

As we debate the ins and outs of how to improve student “achievement,” let’s remember to pause and hear what students have to say. The sooner we give the growing movement of students advocating for  their vision of transforming education a welcomed and honored place at the table, the sooner we will move closer to equity in our schools.

Below are two powerful videos by students — Tele’jon Quinn, a high schooler reflecting on the 12-step brainwash camp & Suli Breaks, a recent college graduate unpacking the difference between schooling and learning.

Tele’jon Quinn

Suli Breaks

Also, keep your eye on this rising star: Nikhil Goyal, student author of “One Size Does Not Fit All”.

(Thanks to Lisa Nielson for originally posting these videos on her site, The Innovative Educator.)