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Palm Coast Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 2 months ago

The word 'equity' signifies reform and should be part of Flagler Schools goals

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Shelley Ragsdale addressed the Flagler County School Board on Nov. 16.
by: Guest Writer

(Editor's Note: The following letter was presented as a public comment to the Flagler County School Board.)

Shelley Ragsdale

by: Shelley Ragsdale

Flagler County NAACP President

The Flagler County School Board discussed earlier this month the removal of the word “equity” from its strategic goals. It was stated that “equity” would be replaced with “student success,” or possibly “student support.” To my knowledge, this stemmed from controversial public statements that were not fact-based.

I am here today to talk about equity in education, and to respectfully ask you as members of the Flagler County School Board, to reconsider your decision to remove the word “equity” from the Flagler County Public Schools’ Strategic Goals.

Equity in education is a key term widely utilized across the U.S. and beyond. Equity is much more than just saying student success and/or student support. The National School Board Association defines educational equity as, “the intentional allocation of resources, instruction, and opportunities according to need, requiring that discriminatory practices, prejudices, and beliefs be identified and eradicated."

Equity in education is the process of reforming practices, policies and procedures at the school and district levels to support academic fairness and inclusion and ensure that every child has the resources, teachers, interventions and supports they need to achieve their educational goals. Equity is about ensuring that everyone receives what they need to thrive — even if that differs across racial or socioeconomic lines.

According to American University’s School of Education, "educational equity ensures that the needs of individuals from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, individuals with disabilities, and other disenfranchised minorities are provided with educational tools, resources and support that are individualized to a student’s educational needs. Achievement gaps and disparate outcomes have shown that educational equality (the attempt to treat every student the same) has failed students from certain backgrounds, while the evolution to educational equity (addressing each student’s individual needs) can improve education for students who have been neglected. With a growing demand for professional educators, the US education system is recognizing the need for professionals to advance equity in education.”

We strongly recommend that the Flagler County School Board continue to use the term “equity” in its goals as it is recognized within the school system and within our community as acknowledged by, I believe, one of your board members. It is recognized amongst U.S. educators and global bodies, and it is a guiding principle within the Florida statute which requires Flagler Schools to provide an Annual Equity report (similar to equity reports utilized by other school systems across this country).

In closing, the pursuit of educational equity is key to the sustainability and evolution of education systems in the U.S. and abroad. The impact of educational inequity is felt most clearly at the classroom level and ripples its way throughout school districts.

Equity in education is necessary for economic mobility (i.e., improved economic status). Without it, the economy will suffer from an achievement gap between groups in society. Because some students aren't prepared to achieve their working potential, it creates income inequality, which, in turn, forms a wealth gap.

If you as board members believe that an educational system should cater to all students through a high-quality educational experience in which each student has the opportunity to receive the support and resources they need to achieve their educational goals, this is support for equity in education. 

It has been documented that Superintendent Cathy Mittelstadt and the Flagler School Board agreed as recently as last August that, “the term equity is critically important to all of us." I concur. I implore you to reinstate the term “equity” into your Flagler School Board Strategic Plan. Strategic goal achievement in equity in education places Flagler Schools on a continuum to becoming “the nation’s premier learning organization."

Shelley Ragsdale is the president of the Flagler County chapter of the NAACP.

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