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Equity in Education in Action

By Shelby Ward
August 30, 2022

Establishing an equitable education environment is vital to helping students achieve their goals, but how can teachers and schools put this value into action?

Equity vs. Equality

The words “equity” and “equality” have a similar ring, but they have distinctly different meanings. Equality is treating everyone the same, such as ensuring the equal right of every US citizen to vote in elections.

But while everyone may have the right to vote, that does not mean everyone has the same access to the voting process. For example, some may not be able to leave work to vote, they might lack reliable transportation, or their voting district is drawn in such a way that they have to travel long distances or stand in line for hours to mark their ballots. So while voting rights may be equal, the ability to equitably exercise that right is in question.

Equity means giving everyone access to the same opportunities in whichever way makes the most sense for the individual. Here are some classroom scenarios that demonstrate the difference between equality and equity:

Scenario 1

Situation: Some students have poor vision

Equality: Schools give all students the same glasses, regardless if they need them or need stronger prescriptions

Equity: The students that need glasses are given glasses with the correct prescription

Scenario 2

Situation: Some students struggle to hear the teacher

Equality: Schools provide all students with devices that amplify the teacher’s voice.

Equity: Students with hearing difficulties are moved closer to the teacher or given devices that amplify the voice of the teacher

Scenario 3

Situation: One student has both arms in a cast and cannot write

Equality: Schools assign a personal scribe to each student.

Equity: The school assigns an aide to the student that can take notes for them or is partnered with a friend for notes

While equality is a good ideal to strive for, it ultimately falls short. With equality, resources are wasted, with some students receiving too much while other students do not receive enough. But with a focus on equity, schools can help close the opportunity gap experienced by students from low-income communities.

Equity in Secondary Education


Planning Lessons

When planning a lesson, teachers should consider what changes to make to provide their students with an equitable learning experience. Student needs can vary according to their physical abilities, learning abilities, race, access to technology and supplies, and English proficiency. Some needs may not need to be addressed within every lesson. By addressing these needs during high school, educational inequality will be reduced, and students will be better prepared to attend college and enter the workforce.

Examples of considerations teachers can make for planning equitable lessons:

Supporting Students as They Apply for College or Other Postsecondary Pathway

For many seniors, applying to college can be a daunting task. From taking standardized tests to completing college applications, the whole process can seem overwhelming for any student.

For first-generation college students, applying to college can have the additional challenge of decoding a process that is new to them and their families. Students who are overwhelmed may choose to give up and not attend college. Only 17% of students whose parents do not attend college obtain a college degree. In addition, financial concerns may limit the college options for students from low-income families. Students should receive support as they prepare for college.

Tips for supporting students as they apply for college

Make it fun!

  • Have college days where students can represent their dream schools
  • Have prizes for students who complete the process
  • Celebrate students when they are accepted into college

Make it easy!

  • Take time to walk students through the various steps of the college application process
  • Host workshops to help students prepare college essays
  • Make use of common applications that allow students to apply to multiple colleges at once
  • Create how-to guides for students and parents
  • Conduct frequent check-ins with students to check their progress
  • Direct students to CollegeBoard’s BigFuture site for college matches and other tips


  • Feature potential scholarships in a school newsletter
  • Celebrate students who obtain scholarships

Equity in Higher Education


A college education is a pathway to financial stability, but only 22% of students from low-income communities earn their college degree. While helping students apply and get accepted into college is an important first step, students—especially first-generation college students—may need additional support.

The first year of college is a new and often difficult experience for any student, but first-generation college students do not have the additional benefit of support from parents who have experienced college firsthand. Former high school teachers can provide some support by checking in with their students from the previous year, especially students with whom they have a good relationship.

In addition, students should have a point of contact from their high school years that can check on their progress throughout at least the first year of college. OneGoal works with students in 11th and 12th grade to help them prepare for college. Once students are there, OneGoal continues to connect and monitor students as they experience their first year of college.

Support from former teachers and community organizations can be amplified by support from the colleges themselves. Many colleges provide additional support for freshmen, but many colleges are creating offices specifically for first-generation students where these students can find support for their unique challenges.



By taking steps to ensure equity for all students, teachers and schools can help their students be successful in secondary school, college, and beyond.

Shelby Ward is a first-generation college graduate, a OneGoal Program Director in Texas, and a feature writer for the OneGoal blog. 

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