In Fall 2005, the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory (NCREL) published a Critical Issue titled Remembering the Child: On Equity and Inclusion in Mathematics and Science Classrooms. Authors Arlene Hambrick and Asta Svedkauskaite point out that “ensuring equity and excellence lies at the core of systemic reform efforts, especially in science and mathematics, the two academic areas that historically have not been widely open to females, ethnic minorities, or students from less affluent communities and families.”
The concept of equity “has profound implications in teaching and learning mathematics and science,” say the authors. But in math and science education in today’s classrooms, “equity does not mean equality—it does not mean that every student should receive identical instruction or the same quantity of instruction,” they explain. “Rather, the principle calls for appropriate accommodations, learning opportunities, high expectations, and adequate resources and support so that outcomes for every student are equitable.”
“Creating personal guiding frameworks in science can allow science teachers to be inclusive in their instructional practices,” say Hambrick and Svedkauskaite. They cite a 2004 article by NSTA member Cherry Brewton, “Personal Guiding Frameworks and Equity Teaching Practices,” that appeared in The Science Teacher. Brewton recommends that when science teachers begin to design and implement multicultural and equity teaching practices, they should consult the National Science Education Standards and the following NSTA documents (available at www.nsta.org/position):
• NSTA Position Statement on Multicultural Science Education
• NSTA Position Statement on Gender Equity in Science Education
The authors also believe that when creating a lesson unit, science teachers should follow Brewton’s suggestions to
• review the NSTA position statements’ preamble/introduction, rationale, and declarations;
• identify declarations and other ideas that apply to the science instructional unit;
• create a checklist of these declarations and ideas;
• research topics for answers to why (rationale), what, how to, and other questions; and
• keep a journal.
Key practical recommendations to help schools ensure equitable instruction to meet a wide range of student needs, according to the authors, include
• increasing expectations,
• making meaningful connections,
• supporting teachers,
• broadening curriculum,
• integrating technology, and
• engaging parents.
The authors also focus on equity issues in science and mathematics as they apply to subgroups identified in the No Child Left Behind Act. They suggest that educators “look at specific research-based recommendations on increasing learning for individual student subgroups, based on poverty, race and ethnicity, disability, and limited English proficiency.”
Having highly-qualified teachers is vital for achieving equity, say the authors, and teachers should be provided with the professional development they need to become highly qualified. Exposing students to a diverse group of teachers, administrators, and school staff can also inspire all students to achieve in science and math, they add.
To read the complete Critical Issue, refer to www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/content/cntareas/math/ma800.htm.