Equity, Equality, Results and Comparisons…

At the NAPP secondary day, we were shown this picture

Equity vs Equality Apples

image sourced from HERE (Office of Health Equity, Maine)

The image was in context of build collaboration and sharing between schools and being very aware of the language we are using. For example, you are not building collaboration if you ‘offer to help’ primary schools with their Science programs, as you language implies if you are helping you are better.

We discussed the diagram and what it meant, and a sudden thought leapt into my head

‘What if you don’t want an Apple?’

I asked this aloud and had very patient answers that explained to me that everyone has a goal and the apple is representative of a goal. You can also look at this from the ‘fence’ picture on Equity vs equality.


Image source HERE

So the goal doesn’t need to be specific as such, so long as everyone has access to the same opportunities.

But what I am struggling to get my head around is we still have ‘markers’ that we measure our learners against. That learning opportunities are all assessment based. Whether these be national standards, Astle testing, NCEA, family income or athletic achievements, we are measuring our students. How can we compare out students if they are being measured on something that is not relevant to them? Because I am starting to think that an awful lot of the assessments given to students are not really relevant to them. (Maybe this is just me, or my school, or my inability to grasp the relevance….. or come up with relevant contexts….)

But also, if it is not relevant to our ‘vision’ for learners, why are we using these measures. For example, most schools/educators/student/ANYONE would argue that when they leave school they want to be decent human beings who are able to participate fully in society, live nice lives and not be a dick. You can fancy this up anyway you like, but essential this is what most school visions say in Rachel speak. To quote Jan Robinson from the NAPP day, NCEA is not a vision.

So why do we keep using it to measure our learners? Especially our ‘most at risk’ learners – why is it that those with no formal qualifications are the most at risk? What are they at risk of? Is it the qualifications they lack? Or is it the other seemingly immeasurable skills that they gain while at school even if they are not gaining NCEA.

For example, working in a ‘rural school’ I get a lot of students say things like ‘I am going to go work on a shearing gang, so why do I need to learn XYZ or get NCEA’ or ‘I’ve already got a job working for ABC lined up when I leave school and I don’t need this standard’. How can I compare those students who leave school with no formal qualifications with other students who drop out due to behavioural issues, family issues or just a general lack of motivation. Both ‘types’ of students are disengaged from school…. neither want the ‘apple’ and so in different ways would scorn the offer of the box. Even if I was to offer them the right sort of goal or the right sort of box, they would still show up as a statistic against a goal totally inappropriate for them.

I can relate this to myself right now. I am learning lots of new things about how schools work while I develop/explore my ideas of moral purpose around education. When I come home and hang out with MR 3, it doesn’t matter at all whether I know about moral purpose or how to pay a relieving teacher the right holiday pay or how to implement the new health and safety laws. It might shape the culture he grows up in within our family environment, where learning and reading are encouraged, but other than my work it doesn’t shape a lot of things in my day to day life. I am confident that there are many excellent parents out there who value education and learning who have no idea about which reagents are important in the reduction of ketones or the meaning of various education related acronyms. So is the learning I am doing relevant to anything outside of school? Should it be?

Or maybe I am reaching for the ‘wrong apple’?


2 thoughts on “Equity, Equality, Results and Comparisons…

  1. Wow – I like your thinking!
    Using the second image you shared and taking your point about not everyone wants an apple, my thinking is that typically in schools we offer our students the same opportunities to reach the same goal, whereas we should be offering students appropriate opportunities to reach their own specific goals.

    We can give everyone the same opportunities but those opportunities will not necessarily give every student the (same) chance to reach their goal. Therefore, in my mind, this is inequitable. Those opportunities will support some but not all students.

    This is when I wish I was more eloquent! I hope this makes sense!

    1. Totally makes sense 🙂 And I get you on not quite being able to get it into the right words.
      It also concerns me that teacher and schools are ‘judged’ on such a small number of potential goals we offer students…..

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