The
Equity Agenda
Means Moving
Beyond Sameness
By Kevin Baird
T

he Equity Conversation has risen to the top of many district agendas, with greater urgency and volume. That is the good news, in my view. However, over time, the weight of “the system” often brings the conversation back to the “same old, same old” – test more, place kids in tiers, treat each tier according to a set of protocols, test again.

The Equity Agenda
Means Moving
Beyond Sameness
By Kevin Baird
T

he Equity Conversation has risen to the top of many district agendas, with greater urgency and volume. That is the good news, in my view. However, over time, the weight of “the system” often brings the conversation back to the “same old, same old” – test more, place kids in tiers, treat each tier according to a set of protocols, test again.

If the COVID era has revealed anything to us, it must be that each student’s individual learning journey is substantially different, because his or her classroom-to-living-room journey is also different. The “real life” of a child includes different family structures, different supports, different interests, different motivations, and differences in resilience and emotional needs. And of course, each child brings different skill fluencies and gaps across the curriculum.

Perhaps the Equity Conversation is accelerating because our view of diversity is expanding. A recent research briefing from Successful Practices Network, the non-profit Center for College & Career Readiness, and ACHIEVE3000 presented data on the Fragmenting Middle. Today’s classrooms – virtual, hybrid, in-person – face a “greater and growing spread in student skills.” Teaching one lesson to one group of students seems impossible as the group’s needs diverge across individual skill gaps.

The concept of “Teaching with Fidelity” is challenged in such a diverse environment. We all know that one size does not fit all, and yet many times we adopt one primary text and adhere to one common scope and sequence. While sameness – similar protocols, common language and standardized tiers of support – allow our schools to function as systems, students get lost in the generic wash. Looking at each student and each teacher as an individual, supporting very personal and specific needs, seems daunting.

Female student in the classroom
Five years ago, I was part of the study which culminated in the book Humanizing the Education Machine: How to Create Schools that Turn Disengaged Kids into Inspired Learners (Miller, 2016). Our follow-up book Whole: What Teachers Need to Help Students Thrive (Miller, 2020) reaffirmed my faith that humanizing our approach to each child and for each teacher is not only possible, but absolutely necessary. That journey – from sameness to the understanding of unique difference – begins with listening.
Male student sitting in bus
The concept of “Teaching with Fidelity” is challenged in such a diverse environment. We all know that one size does not fit all, and yet many times we adopt one primary text and adhere to one common scope and sequence.
At Achieve3000, we are committed to hearing every story possible, working to get the broadest and deepest understanding of your needs.

To better support teachers, students and school leadership, we are engaged in listening to each individual story – the specific challenges of each unique classroom, new needs for closing gaps, and the successes we should be building upon.

Student walking down the road into the sunlight
To better support teachers, students, and school leadership, we are engaged in listening to each individual story – the specific challenges of each unique classroom, new needs for closing gaps, and the successes we should be building upon.
Here is where I need your help. We are working on a 24-month “Mind the Gap” initiative across our content and software teams. We are actively listening (EMAIL: KBaird@ACHIEVE3000.com) to your answers as we ask:
 

  1. Would you and your students benefit from student-written texts (poems, stories and biographies), even though they would not be leveled or assessed. What would you find useful?
  2. We often host “contests” focused on a quantity of reading. Would you and your students benefit from more contests like our “Write the Ending” challenge in fiction, where students or classrooms compose an ending to one of our fiction series? The winning entry is published, and all participants are recognized. How can we do this better or with greater impact?
  3. How can we better support teachers in their work accelerating student literacy skills? Do you need more lesson plans? More flexible content? More data and information?
  4. If you could ask for just one thing from Achieve3000 – a feature, a type of content, training, support… what would you ask for as you face increased pressure in the classroom?
  5. What do we need to know to better help you, help your students, and help educators?
In our next issue, after I’ve heard your requests for helping children, I’ll be able to share our starting points. Advancing equity begins with inviting conversation. I hope you will join in by sending me your thoughts at KBaird@ACHIEVE3000.com
Student learning from home
As we listen to as many individual stories as possible, our mosaic is coming into view. While the premise of Achieve3000 is to differentiate content to ensure students read successfully, gain confidence, and accelerate skills, we are working to provide more specific personal experiences for our more than five million learners. In our next issue, after I have heard your requests for helping children, I will be able to share our starting points. Advancing equity begins with inviting conversation. I hope you will join in by sending me your thoughts at KBaird@ACHIEVE3000.com. I will read them, and I will respond!

Until then, my sincere and personal thanks for the work that you do

Moving to meet the many divergent needs of our students and teachers, away from sameness and toward increased humanization, is incredibly challenging. Meeting diverse needs requires a move away from sameness, and we know that begins by listening.

About the author

Kevin Baird (MBA, ALEP) serves as chief academic officer for Achieve3000. He is a noted leader in college and career readiness content, strategies and standards. He has taken part in educational research on every continent save for Antarctica; consulted with governments to create college & career readiness initiatives; and has served as trainer and consultant for states and districts across North America. Kevin has served as chairman and senior faculty at the non-profit Center for College & Career Readiness and has collaborated with Achieve3000 for over 15 years; and contributes as a member of our Educator Leadership Council.