Equity and Equality
I recently attended a beyond diversity training at my district. The speaker made a profound statement that still resonates with me today. He shared this example with all of us. “Equality is everyone in this room has a pair of shoes. Equity is when all of the shoes fit.”
At times, I would love for equity to happen in the world of school counseling. Unfortunately, this is not our reality, but we can still strive for a ratio of 250 students to one school counselor. Quite often, the elementary level school counselor is not present. Equality would be that every student in the state had access to ASCA’s recommended ratio for school counselors, regardless of level, location, or learning ability.
I love presenting on issues and topics educating people about LGBTQ issues. I'm very proud to work in the Stoughton Area School District. In our district we surpassed equity and are seeking equality for students and staff who don’t identify as heterosexual. Having a parent advocate for their child's rights is an amazingly powerful lesson to witness. With the help of some amazingly passionate equality ambassadors, our school board unanimously passed inclusive language into our pupil non-discrimination policy. Stoughton is one of only a handful of districts to adopt this monumental change. Here is our additional equitable language. “In addition, the District prohibits discrimination on the basis of transgender status including gender expression, gender identity and gender non-conformity. “
After the vote passed unanimously, I made sure to hug each board member and thank them for their support of this life-saving vote. Each and every board member told me is was the “right thing to do.” What great PRIDE I have for our students and staff to truly be who they are in their pursuit of happiness. If anyone is interested in learning more about how Stoughton changed their policies, please check out www.gsafewi.org for the Safe Schools, Safe Communities conference April 11th in Kenosha. Want to learn more about LGBTQIA Resources? ASCA has asked me to present a webinar on April 3rd at 7pm on this topic. Please join us in making schools equitable for ALL students!
Promoting equity is a way of life. Learning to promote equity is a journey; a long drive where one never reaches the end destination. To understand equity, counselors must be willing to look within and seek their own personal perspective on others, on difference. Be willing to ask yourself; do you have stereotypes? Do you have beliefs about the way people from a certain culture must act or behave in the world? Do you question your own prejudices? The history of the United States of America is a lens through which we have been taught to see people. To truly promote equity, we first must begin with ourselves and be willing to root out our own biases. Being grounded in our own awareness is imperative to truly have the heart to seek success for all students.
It is also very important to understand the difference between equity and equality. Equity is doing what is right for an individual student to be successful, knowing what each need is and finding a way to meet it. Equity is making sure each student has what they need, not giving exactly the same thing to each student. Equality supports the myth that if we just give all of our students exactly the same amount of attention, supplies, books and teaching time, they will all find success. Equity acknowledges that students come to us from many different backgrounds- including race, ethnicity, GLBQT status, age, religion, socioeconomic status, and on and on. The journey of promoting equity is complex. Equity is not black and white; instead it is every shade in between in understanding and growth.
The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) includes advocacy as part of the framework of ASCA National Model. ASCA states “School counselors must use culturally proficient skills to challenge the status quo and existing belief systems and discuss challenging issues of equity and access with school stakeholders” (p.16). Thus we have a professional obligation to promote equity in our schools.
Equity is strongly linked to social justice, to doing what is right. Holcomb-McCoy states, “Social Justice champions the belief that one can change the world and that all persons may contribute to the whole society while striving for their own potential” (2007). It is this individual potential that deserves our advocacy. Many conversations have sprung from the data we are collecting on the achievement gap. It is easy enough to place blame upon the students, to say, “they don’t work hard enough”, or “their family just doesn’t value education”. It is much more difficult to look within and question the practice of our public schools and the way things have always been. I beg you to question the way things have always been. Why? Why are we doing things this way? What was the original intent, and is that something we still value? Does it still serve the needs of all of our students? Does this system truly allow for each and every student to reach for their potential and become all they can be?
To understand our education system, we must once again look within and try to understand ourselves. Speaking as a white woman from Wisconsin, it is imperative for me to understand White Privilege, as defined by Peggy MacItosh, when I am working with students. If you have never heard this term or don’t you understand it, I encourage you to check out http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html. Tim Wise also addresses understanding privilege in White Like Me. It is our responsibility as Professional School Counselors to understand the complexities that define our social world. It is our responsibility to research perspectives we may never have been taught exist. We need to be able to use the empathy that has led us into the field of counseling to be able to reach beyond what we have taken for granted. We need to be able to truly question what it is to be “different” and advocate for FAIR treatment – fair social treatment, fair curriculum, fair assessment and fair treatment in the school community and classroom. Equity and Social Justice require from us the dedication to the long journey of striving for an education system that truly values all students. This is a journey without an end as we continue to grow within and to advocate without for lasting change and a new foundation for our expectations of what is and what could be.
ASCA (2012). ASCA National Model; A framework for School Counseling Programs, third edition. Alexandria, VA, author.
Singleton, G. & Linton, C. (2006). Courageous conversations about race. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
Holcomb-McCoy, C. (2007). School counseling to close the achievement gap; A social justice framework for success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
McIntosh, P. (1990) White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. As retrieved from the www: http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html
Wise, T. (2008). White like me; Reflections on race from a privileged son. Berekely, CA: Soft Skull Press
School Counselors Are Essential in Promoting Equity for Disadvantaged Students
WSCA Secondary VP-Elect: Brianne Mehlos
Recent research shows that universally, children of wealthier and higher-educated parents do better in school than children of poorer or less-educated parents. Yet, studies done by The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development show that high-performing systems can reduce this impact of socioeconomic status on educational achievement, and create environments that are open to talent from any source. School Counselors are uniquely positioned within schools to assist in creating these high-performing systems. As School Counselors, we see daily the impact that unequal access to resources can have on students and strive to promote policies and practices that promote equity for all.
Examples of these are:
· Talking with students who may be first generation college attendees to help navigate the system
· Promoting fee waivers for the ACT and Advance Placement tests
· Developing a budget within the counseling department for students in need of school supplies
· Assisting in connecting students with internship and employment opportunities
· Linking parents with the school to increase their engagement, and connecting the school with community
organizations to provide a range of social, medical, and learning supports.
Further research shows it is not just a question of providing more resources, as the systems with the highest expenditures are not necessarily the systems with the highest performance—but of more effective use of resources. In Wisconsin many School Counselors are already working with their districts to ensure the effective use of resources through Response to Intervention (RtI) and Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS). With these policies in place, the vast majority of students can have the opportunity to attain high levels of skills, regardless of their own personal and socioeconomic circumstances (Global Schools Education Network, 2012).
School Counselors and DPI’s Webpages: Navigating the Maze of Information
Gregg Curtis WSCA DPI Consultant
When I started my job as the school counseling consultant at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction in 2012, I was not aware of the abundance of information on the department’s webpages. As I imitated my relationship with them, I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume and frustrated by the “un-friendliness” of the site. There was just SO MUCH STUFF everywhere!! Now that I’ve been here awhile, I’ve learned some navigational tricks that I’d like to share.
The department’s homepage (http://dpi.wi.gov/) gives visitors a quick glimpse as to the agency’s chief priority: Agenda 2017. Individual links transport users to an overview of Agenda 2017 (http://statesupt.dpi.wi.gov/) and information about the agenda’s four key components:
1. What and should kids learn? (http://statesupt.dpi.wi.gov/si)
2. How do we know if they learned it? (http://statesupt.dpi.wi.gov/asd)
3. How do we ensure kids have highly effective teachers and schools? (http://statesupt.dpi.wi.gov/eff)
4. How should we pay for schools? (http://statesupt.dpi.wi.gov/sf)
In addition to information about Agenda 2017, the homepage contains a couple of key entry points to other information. The “Search” box in the upper right corner allows users to conduct a keyword search of all of the content contained on the department’s webpages. Simply type in a keyword (i.e. bullying) and results will be displayed that shows all of the department’s web content related to bullying. The “Site Index” located below the Agenda 2017 information gives visitors access to a dropdown box of choices that transports users to directories, “Top Hits” (topics accessed frequently by users), and an alphabetical list of topics. Finally, the “Quick Links” section of the homepage contains links to topics currently salient in public education (i.e. educator licensing) and to important forms, resources, and the department’s divisions and teams.
“Favorite-ing” or “bookmarking” DPI webpages can cut search time and give you access to information about specific topics. The pages you select will depend on how you’ve defined your counseling role and the grade levels you serve.
One possible page you might consider is the Student Services/Prevention and Wellness (SSPW) team page. (http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/sspw_home) SSPW is a team in the Division for Learning Support at the DPI. The team page presents an alphabetical list of state and federal programs that support the development, safety, and health of Wisconsin public school students. SSPW team members provide statewide leadership and technical assistance in all of the areas on the list; including AIDS/HIV/STDs (http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/sspw_aidshiv), Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/sspw_aodaprog), Child Abuse and Neglect (http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/sspw_can), Mental Health (http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/sspw_mentalhealth), School Age Parents (http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/sspw_schlageparent), School Counseling (http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/sspw_counsl1), Suicide Prevention (http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/sspw_suicideprev), and Discipline, Suspensions, and Expulsions (http://sspw.dpi.wi.gov/sspw_disciplineexpulsion). Visiting the topical pages give visitors both general information about the topic and a set of resources, information, and links to further information.
Hopefully you can use these tips to deepen your own set of resources and put tools in your toolkit.
Membership Chair: Paula Gretzlock
Hello WSCA members! I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to you all for being a part of our organization and all the significant contributions you make to WSCA, as well as the School Counseling profession! I am proud to play an active role in WSCA as your Membership Director. I have held this position for the past 3 years. Although I will admit that when I accepted the appointment I was a bit nervous to see what the reality of it would be in terms of time, energy and effort commitment, I am happy to say that the positive benefits of the position far outweigh anything I was worried about. I wonder if other WSCA members consider those same questions that I did. We are all busy people and professionals. I have been a high school counselor for 14 years, coached multiple sports, advised many different groups, am married and have 3 children – and that is just the ‘basics’ of myself! How could I fit a role on the WSCA Board of Directors into life?! Well, I don’t think that I am any extraordinary person and I managed to do it – I bet you could also! It’s been a great pleasure working directly with you – our WSCA membership - on questions, concerns, ideas and thoughts about how WSCA functions. My goals have centered on meeting members’ needs and expanding our membership. Thanks to your input I see WSCA continuing to improve and expand on a consistent and positive basis. I am excited to see what the upcoming future of WSCA holds and I hope that you will consider two things as we move forward – one, you CAN balance your busy life with being directly involved in WSCA so please consider doing so and two, who around you professionally is NOT benefitting from being a WSCA member and how can you share with them the value of WSCA? Please let me know at any time what I can do to support you in those two areas!
Graduate Student Representative: Meg Plicka
As a person I have a passion for helping people and have a heart that cares. As a graduate student I am driven to do well, gain experiences, receive feedback, learn all I can and work hard to do well. As a WSCA board member my position has me split in two parts; one part is on the WSCA board and the other the leader of the graduate student board of the graduate student committee. On the WSCA board I have the honor and pleasure of working with some the most amazing and passionate school counselors in the state that work hard to make WSCA as best as it can be. I get to help with planning, organizing and discussing all of the important events and key elements of WSCA. On the graduate student board I get to work with passionate and driven students working to learn as much as they can and gain as much as they can. All of them wanting to be the best school counselors they can be, and working hard to achieve that. As a committee the graduate students work as a team to make WSCA beneficial for students. We have meetings, our own newsletter, our own social and so much more. A lot of things are done behind the scenes and sometimes often is unknown to professionals. As the graduate student representative my goal has been to work to make things beneficial for them, speak for them, help them and do all I can to help them prepare for the professional world. I would say I am the luckiest member of the WSCA board because I get to see both sides the Professional and Student side. I get to help both ends not only be beneficial to all WSCA professionals and students but also I get to help graduate students and professionals connect to each other.
Where: Memorial Student Center, UW-Stout Campus-Menomonie, WI
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In This Edition
Equity and Equality
By Lisa Koenecke
Topic of the Month: Equity
Board Member Spotlight
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