Manchester Proud recently released their One Year Progress Report.  Parents need to start asking questions based on what they are reporting. For instance, within this report there are references to providing equity for students in Manchester. It’s important to know what EQUALITY means VERSUS EQUITY and, how that will relate to students in the district.

Equality was considered a good thing, until recently.

Looking for ways to elevate students who’ve been marginalized in the past in an effort to make sure those opportunities are available, provides EQUALITY of opportunities.  Compare this to eliminating gifted programs so that all students are performing at the same level. This would still deny marginalized students opportunities but, now there is EQUITY in the outcomes.  

The Massachusetts Miracle was an example of focusing on equality of opportunity for all students, the marginalized included.  Pre-Common Core; the Massachusetts Department of Education focused on improving academic content and targeting marginalized students in order to improve their opportunities.  They looked for ways to remove barriers so that the marginalized students had equal opportunity to succeed.

That was the purpose of offering Advanced Placement classes in the public schools. It was a way to remove a barrier to children attending public schools and offer opportunities that were only available to children attending elite private schools. Offering levels of learning for gifted or advanced students, offers those same opportunities. Unfortunately with the new EQUITY movement, we are seeing these opportunities vanish. Even in Manchester, we are seeing a call for removing leveling instead of looking for ways to elevate students who have traditionally run into barriers: the marginalized students.

Under the current education model where Competency Based Education is introduced, the focus becomes on closing the achievement gap. We are seeing this played out by bringing the top down in order to achieve equity in outcomes.  They achieve equity by taking away opportunities all students, the marginalized too. 

This was a topic that Dr. Sandra Stotsky spoke about when she addressed the State Board of Education in New Hampshire several years ago. She was the Senior Associate Commissioner in the Massachusetts Department of Education from 1999 to 2003.  While there she directed complete revisions of the state’s preK-12 standards for every major subject that has been judged among the best in the country by independent experts. On the 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013 tests given by NAEP, Massachusetts students had the highest average scores in grades 4 and 8 in both mathematics and reading, The scores of the state’s low-income students, compared with those in other states on NAEP’s 2007 tests, were tied for first place in grades 4 and 8 mathematics and in grade 4 reading. In grade 8 reading, they were tied for second place. 

The Massachusetts Miracle included drafting the best academic standards in the country, a focus on academic content in professional development, choice in educational options and, tutoring for students who needed extra help. NO Common Core, NO Competency Based Ed., NO removal of equal opportunities, but instead support for teachers and students. 

Since 2010 and the adoption of Common Core, states have moved away from this proven model. That has directly impacted  opportunities for all students who strive for advanced learning.  The dismal scores on national assessments like the NAEP  reflect that, based on the poor performance of students in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. (See Graphs Below)

Parents in Manchester have been told that this means the advanced students will now be held back so that they can help their peers in the lower level classes. They will learn teamwork. Teamwork is considered part of the workforce skills that students are learning through (CBE) Competency Based Ed. This is what we warned would happen if CBE was required in all schools.  The dumbing down in order to meet equity goals. While they learn teamwork their academic achievement suffers.

Please note that this is not happening in the private elite schools. They will still provide opportunities for their students without the dumbing down through equity and competencies.  Equity in outcomes doesn’t help any students, it just hurts students who want the opportunities that their peers are offered in elite private schools.

One parent commented that she didn’t want her children teaching other students. That is the task reserved for the teacher. But with the Schools of Education pushing for teachers to become Guides on the Side instead of the Sage on the Stage, this is what we are left with.

It was veteran education columnist Maureen Downey  who wrote a column for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution  about “what teens resent” in school. They overwhelmingly said that they resented disrupted learning and wasted time in classes and group projects.   Group projects are also supposed to teach the students workforce force or teamwork skills.  While teamwork is a good skill to learn, when it’s forced on every class, academic outcomes suffer. Teachers must now shift focus away from academic content and focus on workforce skills.

Ed Week reported on this:
Repeatedly, students told me they could learn twice as much in half the time if teachers rein in their rambling peers. The kids described unproductive classrooms where too much time is sacrificed to irrelevant chatter or tangents. A boy sheepishly said he would deliberately derail his Spanish teacher, a recent college grad struggling with classroom management, with meandering comments and ‘sort of became famous for it.’ “

Competency Based Education has dumbed down the classroom and now with a focus on equitable outcomes, the dumbing down will continue by eliminating advanced classes and opportunities.

Manchester Proud mentions their focus on equity for all learners while the district focuses on eliminating higher level classes. They will be hiring a Chief Equity Officer   and one of the goals of the Chief Equity Officer is to: “assure all students achieve equitable outcomes.”  How is this done? Typically by closing the achievement gap and eliminating opportunities for advance learning.

It’s important that parents understand the term EQUITY in outcomes versus Equality of opportunity for all students.

While students may never reach the upper levels that have been available, having that opportunity available helps ALL students just by offering the opportunity to reach the highest level.

Instead of focusing on 1) reaching the marginalized students, 2) making sure that they have tutoring available, 3) a quality curriculum that is focused on rich academic content, 4) a highly educated and qualified teacher in the classroom, 5) and other barriers that need to be addressed, those calling for EQUITY would rather eliminate all opportunities for your children.

If you care about EQUALITY, opportunities, all students, and public education, you work to make sure that students have opportunities. You don’t remove those opportunities in the name of EQUITY.

That’s not good for students in Manchester or the public schools.

When you see a call for equity in outcomes, remember that this is a removal of equal opportunity for all students. 

Ann Marie Banfield has been researching education and working as an activist for over a decade. She has traveled to Concord to lobby on behalf of parental rights and literacy. Working with experts in education from across the country, she offers valuable insight into problems and successes in education. She holds a B.A. in Business Management from Franklin University in Columbus Ohio. Ann Marie and her husband have three children and reside in North Hampton, NH