The following are working definitions of how educators and education researchers have used these terms.
A belief in diversity is an acknowledgement of the value of having many beliefs, perspectives, and ideologies present within social groups (e.g. neighborhoods, community and professional organizations, etc.) to deepen cross-cultural understanding and learning to benefit individuals and the community as a whole (Banks et al., 2007). In education, calls for greater diversity in schools, programs and within the curriculum, stem from the belief that different kinds of students have much to gain from learning from each other, and by learning from a diversity of teachers and teaching styles. Such interaction teaches students essential democratic skills (Parker, 2003) and broadens their perspective, making them more tolerant and culturally literate over time (Banks, 1993).
Inclusion refers to the policies and procedures that organizations make to intentionally include a diversity of people in any social or organizational context. In many ways, inclusion is the enactment of a belief in the value of diversity (Banks, 1993). In education, calls for greater inclusion can refer to the kinds of people invited to meetings (e.g. a diversity of parents, students, various community stakeholders) and/or the access granted to students into different kinds of coursework (e.g. students from historically marginalized communities or students with disabilities or ELL students encouraged to enroll in mainstream or advanced coursework). Research has repeatedly shown that thoughtful inclusion of a diversity of students within schools, programs, and classrooms, benefits students socially and academically (Au & Kawakami, 1994; Banks et al., 2007; Sahlberg, 2010).
Equality refers to the belief that all students should be afforded the same treatment and access to educational resources and opportunities regardless of racial, ethnic, linguistic, socio-economic status or learning ability. Underpinning the argument for more equality in the educational system is a belief that a central purpose of public schools is to ensure greater democratic participation and social mobility for all its citizens (Labaree, 1997). The relevant research strongly suggests that unequal access to resources, whether it be high quality teachers, after school programs, or highly rigorous coursework, to name a few, negatively impacts students’ academic performance and achievement as well as their social and emotional well-being (Darling-Hammond, 2010). One example of policy that aimed to create more equality in the system was the Bellevue School District’s policy to open access to and enrollment of advanced coursework (e.g. the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs) to all students.
In educational research, equity is defined as providing students with differentiated levels of support and resources in order to provide them with an equal opportunity to succeed in school. A focus on equity is warranted by research (Lareau, 2011) that demonstrates that because the public education system was largely developed by White, middle class men, schools have come to reflect the tacit and explicit norms and rules of White, middle class culture (Watkins, 2001). Students who don’t come from those backgrounds can struggle to learn and adapt to the tacit norms and rules of schools and thus, may struggle academically. Equity-focused policy describes the ways in which educators accommodate children who don’t come from middle to upper class backgrounds, as well as students with disabilities (SWD) and students who qualify for English Language Learner (ELL) services, in an attempt to help them be as successful as students who don’t have to overcome those obstacles.
In educational research, racial equity is a concept borne out of a body of research (Kozol, 1995; Darling-Hammond, 2010) that reflects the field’s understanding that students of color can experience compounded stress and anxiety when the implicit or explicit racism they experience outside of school is unknowingly or knowingly replicated by teachers and administrators in schools (Pollock, 2017). Educators’ mistreatment of students of color is well documented (see attached reference list) and can stem from individual’s explicit or implicit bias and racism, such as racial microaggressions (Pollock, 2017), and the largely invisible structural and systemic factors that impede and limit how successful children of color can be. Policies aimed at addressing racial inequity require districts and schools to address both the practices of individuals within the system, such as teachers, staff, and administrators, and the institutional practices that empower and protect the biased actions of individuals against students and families of color.
Au, K., H., & Kawakami, A., J. (1994). Cultural congruence in instruction. In E. R. Hollins, J. E. King, & W. C. Hayman (Eds.), Teaching diverse populations: Formulating a knowledge base (pp. 5-23). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Banks, J., A., Au, K., H., Ball, A., F., Bell, P., Gordon, E., W., Gutierrez, K., D., Heath, S., B., Lee, C., D., Lee, Y., Mahiri, J., Nasir, N., S., Valdes, G., & Zhou, M. (2007). Learning in and out of school in diverse environments: Life-long, life-wide, life-deep. The LIFE Center (The Learning in Informal and Formal Environments Center) and The Center for Multicultural Education. Seattle, WA: The University of Washington.
Banks, J., A. (1993). Multicultural education: Historical development, dimensions, and practice. Review of Educational Research, 19, 3-49.
Belfield, C., R., & Levin, H., M. (2007). The price we pay: Economic and social consequences of inadequate education. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.
Chetty, R., Hendren, N., Jones, M., R., & Porter, S., R. (2018). Race and economic opportunity in the United States: An intergenerational perspective. The Equality of Opportunity Project.
Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The flat world and education: How America’s commitment to equity will determine our future. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research, and practice. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2), 106-116.
Hammond, Z., L. (2015). Culturally responsive teaching and the brain: Promoting authentic engagement and rigor among culturally and linguistically diverse students. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Kleinfeld, J. (1975). Effective teachers of Eskimo and Indian students. School Review, 83(2), 301-344.
Kozol, J. (1991). Savage inequalities: Children in America’s schools. New York, NY: Crown Publishers.
Labaree, D., F. (1997). Public goods, private goods: The American struggle over educational goals. American Educational Research Journal, 34(1), 39-81.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1994). The dreamkeepers: Successful teachers of African-American children. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Ladson-Billings, G. (1995). Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 465-491.
Ladson-Billings, G. (2006). From the achievement gap to the education debt: Understanding achievement in U.S. schools. Educational Researcher, 35(7), 3-12.
Lareau, A. (2011). Unequal childhoods: Class, race, and family life. (2nd Ed). Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press.
Morris, E., W., & Perry, B., L. (2016). The punishment gap: School suspension and racial disparities in achievement. Social Problems, 63, 68-86.
Parker, W., C. (2003). Teaching democracy: Unity and diversity in public life. New Yor, NY: Teachers College Press.
Pollock, M. (2017). Schooltalk: Rethinking what we say about-and to-students every day. New York, NY: The New Press.
Sahlberg, P. (2010). Finnish lessons: What we can learn from educational change in Finland. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Sotero, M., M. (2006). A conceptual model of historical trauma: Implications for public health practice and research. Journal of Health Disparities Research and Practice, 1(1), 93-108.
Steele, C., M. (2011). Whistling Vivaldi: How stereotypes affect us and what we can do. New York, NY: Norton & Company, Inc.
Watkins, W., H. (2001). The white architects of black education: Ideology and power in America, 1865-1954. New York, NY: Teachers College Press