Board Chair Reflects on ‘Equity’ in Opening Remarks

Contributed by Dr. Al Cohen, Chair of the Capital Region ESD 113 Board of Directors at the September 8, 2021 board meeting.

The Leadership Team has designated the term Equity as the value they are focusing on in the month of September. My remarks today hopefully will complement their efforts.

I attended public schools in the 1950s and 60s and I was taught all students were created equal. Implied in this message was that we all have the opportunity to succeed if we were willing to work hard and be respectful. The implied message went on to say, that all of us would be treated the same and there wouldn’t be any special treatment.

I don’t remember the term “equity” ever being mentioned.

So now, some 50 plus years later, educators seldom mention students being equal, but rather focus attention on equity. Are these terms, equality and equity the same or are they contradictory or are they compatible?

I think it is reasonable to say that ideally we want to believe that all students are born equal, but that doesn’t mean that all students have the same opportunities immediately after birth. There are many factors that cause the differences in opportunities including historical circumstances and contemporary discrimination.

In order to address the differences of opportunity that certain groups face, it is clearly understandable why our educators are focusing on equity. Equity practices addresses the unique traits of individuals and how they interact with their schooling. If we want students to be equal with one another, then we need to provide those equity or fairness steps that will bring this ideal closer to being. In essence, by addressing equity issues we are working to make the playing field level for all students.

Fortunately, our educators understand the need to provide those necessary steps to lift our students. They strive to achieve the best possible outcomes for each individual student. I extend my gratitude to all the educators who understand the importance of addressing equity issues. Educators who provide students the extra time and the additional tools that will lead to greater success in their studies and in their confidence. Our educators are doing a service to not only the students and their families, but to all society and the benefits will be long-term and self-sustaining. These educators truly know and understand what it means to level the playing field.