Equity in education is the action of providing students access to what they need to be successful academically. While equality reflects all students being treated the same and given access to the same or similar resources, equity is achieved when students have access to what they need individually. Efforts to ensure equity for all students is good policy and can improve student achievement at all levels. However, actions being taken by some school districts are being called equity, when they are actually lowered performance expectations.
For example, several school districts in California have opted to eliminate D and F grades “as a way to help students who had been most impacted by the pandemic, especially Black, Latino and low-income students.” District officials and policy makers cite inequity caused by the pandemic as the primary consideration for this controversial decision.
Not surprising, many education stakeholders are unhappy with this decision which amounts to little more than a thinly veiled lowering of academic expectations for students. As a Black person and educator, I am insulted by the suggestion that failure needs to be eliminated for Black (and other) students to achieve academic success. Rather than examining the policies and practices that lead to student underachievement early on, some people seem to believe failure can be rectified by removing failure indicators from the equation.
The elimination of Ds and Fs is another form of grade inflation which gives students, parents and stakeholders a false illustration of student achievement. It’s also contrary to efforts to prepare students to compete and be successful in college, the military, vocational school or in other aspects of the real world.
Some readers might be quick to assign California “woke” thinking as the catalyst behind this idea. However, policies like this long precede “wokeness” and have been in place in Texas for years. The assignment of a minimum grade of 50 has been active in Texas for at least a decade. For years, many Texas teachers have been forced to award grades of no less than 70 to students who submitted nothing to show for it.
When policies like this are established, one should question the reasoning behind them. As a nation, do we want our future leaders to expect the standards on their jobs or in their lives to be lowered if they have difficulty reaching them? Do we want to set the expectation that our children can live productive lives by doing nothing and being rewarded for it?
Does this sound familiar? It should. We are living it out right now.