Equity & Diversity

Noguera: Educators Must be ‘Guardians of Equity’

By Anthony Rebora — December 11, 2013 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print


At the outset of his keynote address before several hundred educators at Learning Forward’s annual conference here yesterday, New York University professor and influential education activist Pedro Noguera noted that he was disappointed by the recently released PISA results, which showed U.S. students falling behind their counterparts in other nations in reading, math, and science.

But Noguera went on to explain that, when asked by members of the media to comment on the results, he had emphasized that U.S. students’ poor showing wasn’t “simply an education problem.” Rather, he said, it was tied to “profound inequities” in American society—and, in turn, in American schools.

The PISA results, Noguera said, reflected a persistent achievement gap in U.S. education that is “largely about inequity—inequity in opportunity and backgrounds.”

Noguera said that inequity is deeply ingrained in the U.S. education system because, in American society, the pursuit of excellence is often seen as being “at odds with equity.” When that dichotomy exists, he said, “equity always loses.” Ambitious parents, for example, will always push schools for greater excellence for their children, but, he asked, “who’s the advocate for equity” in resources and educational opportunities for all students?

Noguera went on to argue that schools themselves can help reconcile this philosophical divide by working to “achieve excellence through equity.” He said he has seen this work taking place in a scattering of schools and districts around the country. “It can be done,” he said. “We don’t have to write off certain children.”

10 Equity Practices

Noguera pointed to a recent study out of the University of Chicago identifying five proven components of school-improvement efforts: offering coherent instructional guidance; building staff capacity; developing partnerships with parents; creating a positive school culture; and fostering strong and responsive leadership.

Unfortunately, he said, none of these principles is well-reflected in current education policy, which he claimed is largely based on “mandates and slogans.”

But building off the study’s list—and drawing on his own research in schools—Noguera outlined 10 specific principles and practices for educators that he said could lead to sustained improvement in schools, largely by aggressively supporting the academic growth of all students and confronting systemic inequalities. They included:

• Challenging the ways race and socioeconomic status become predictable patterns of achievement in schools (particularly by countering low expectations and complacency and using data to generate “tough questions” about students’ performance and needs);

• Becoming guardians of equity (for example, by exposing the “pockets” in schools where kids aren’t learning or are discounted, stereotyped, or demeaned);

• Embracing immigrant students and their cultures (for example by building staff capacity to teach them and honoring, rather than dismissing, their language skills);

• Giving students guidance on what it takes to succeed (by “demystifying school success,” helping them understand “codes of power,” and by giving them detailed information on a range of career options);

• Building partnerships with parents (by training teachers to work constructively and “compassionately” with parents to help reinforce school objectives at at home);

• Developing partnerships in the community (including by working with local businesses, nonprofits, and health-care providers to address student needs that can’t be met in schools);

• Aligning discipline practices and education goals (by, for example, introducing creative approaches like restorative justice instead of removing already-struggling students from class);

• Focusing on acceleration rather than remediation (by identifying remedial programs in which kids aren’t showing improvement and expanding access to and support for challenging coursework);

• Implementing evidence-based practices and evaluating such practices for effectiveness (by continually monitoring student and teacher needs in connection with new instructional initiatives, including the Common Core State Standards);

• And teaching the way students learn rather than expecting them to learn by the way you teach (meaning that, rather than just covering required material, teachers should adapt their instruction to their students’ needs and see students’ work as a reflection of their own practice).

Most of all, Noguera said, schools and teachers “need to be beacons of hope for students.” They need to “help kids believe in the power of education” at a time when many of them feel discounted or left behind as a result prevailing school-system practices, including cuts to music and arts programs.

“Educators need to keep that big vision that puts child development at the center of their work,” he said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Equity & Diversity Reported Essay What the Indian Caste System Taught Me About Racism in American Schools
Born and raised in India, reporter Eesha Pendharkar isn’t convinced that America’s anti-racist efforts are enough to make students of color feel like they belong.
7 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Reported Essay Our Student Homeless Numbers Are Staggering. Schools Can Be a Bridge to a Solution
The pandemic has only made the student homelessness situation more volatile. Schools don’t have to go it alone.
5 min read
Conceptual illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Equity & Diversity How Have the Debates Over Critical Race Theory Affected You? Share Your Story
We want to hear how new constraints on teaching about racism have affected your schools.
1 min read
Mary Hassdyk for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion When Educational Equity Descends Into Educational Nihilism
Schools need to buckle down to engage and educate kids—not lower (or eliminate) expectations in the name of “equity.”
3 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty