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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Equitable education critical for student success

Lucy Atkinson
School supplies rest on a table. Equity in education is critical to student success as is pushing a need for better school funding. (Lucy Atkinson | Northern Star)

Many students born or raised in communities that are impoverished are at a significant disadvantage compared to students in affluent communities. This is an issue that needs resolution by prioritizing equality and quality in education to ensure that all students have the resources they need. 

The disparities in education can mean students in impoverished communities have fewer resources to succeed academically and achieve their goals. 

It is saddening that students who aren’t in control of where they go to school have to deal with not receiving a quality education that would put them in a better position in the future.

The levels of achievement of schools in the Chicago Public School district are shown to correlate with poverty. Test scores are lower for impoverished schools and more pressure is put on these schools to meet state standards than schools with higher-income communities, according to a Southern Illinois University 2017 study.

Policymakers should start ensuring students are receiving quality education and access to resources and opportunities to prepare them for the future. It is their job, after all, to advocate for their constituents.

The lack of funding schools receive has an impact on the education students receive. 

Eric Junco, the director for equity in NIU’s College of Education, said school funding has more effects than most people think.

“Low income areas often have more limited funding than schools in affluent areas, but what happens afterwards is this gap in funding affects things like teacher salaries, and if the teacher salaries are low in spaces, they often move to more affluent areas,” Junco said. “But then what happens is the students in these less affluent areas often have the less experience. Teachers are the least experienced teachers, which then contribute to their academic achievement.”

Increased education spending has strong benefits for students which include higher test scores, higher graduation rates and sometimes higher wages as adults, according to Chalkbeat, a nonprofit news organization.

It is essential schools receive proper funding for students to thrive academically. Students should receive an education that is fair and prosperous for them, no matter their background. 

It’s also important to follow where the money schools receive goes. Schools that spend more money on instruction and support services receive the best results in terms of student success — graduation rates and wages — for low-income families, according to a research paper published by the National Bureau of Economics Research.

Schools must make sure the money they spend is for the betterment of students.

The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on how much students with fewer resources are disadvantaged. 

“The pandemic has disrupted education nationwide, turning a spotlight on existing racial and economic disparities, and creating the potential for a lost generation,” according to The Harvard Gazette. With the transition to online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, students lacked digital access. 

Limited digital access was at 42% during the spring 2021 shutdown and Black and Hispanic households were 1.3 to 1.4 times as likely as white households to face limited access to computers and the internet, according to the Harvard Gazette.

Additionally, recent data shows the pandemic erased over two decades of academic progress – which profoundly affected disadvantaged households. Higher performing students had significantly higher access to electronic devices, high-speed internet, a quiet place to work and a person helping them with their schoolwork according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Junco mentioned the concept of “digital divide,” a term that refers to the gap between those who have access to certain technology and those who do not. The digital divide is an issue that needs to be addressed in the case of another instance — such as the COVID-19 pandemic —that would require students to go fully digital. 

“Students may suffer from not having access to basic digital resources which then results in a lack of necessary technical knowledge and skills to do things like apply to jobs and participate in modern society,” Junco said.

To help students break barriers and overcome disadvantages, some universities such as NIU have implemented guaranteed admission programs or removed standardized testing required for college admissions. 

“For the College of Education, one of the things that we did was we said we’re not going to require things like the ACT or SAT in the wake of this pandemic because we know that’s an extra expense,” Junco said. “That’s also one of the ways where we can increase access to our institution through removing some of those barriers.”

Building community school systems can help address the lack of equity and quality education in the U.S. K-12 education system. 

Within community school systems, multiple institutions, researchers and leaders can come together, innovate and share resources for schools. These community school systems focus on empowering student and family engagement, expanding and enriching learning opportunities, creating a culture of belonging and safety, and community-connected classroom instruction.

The U.S. should strive to guarantee that students can reach their full potential academically and aren’t at a disadvantage simply because of the area they come from. Children are the future of the world, and making sure they all receive equity and quality in education should be a priority. 

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