Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fair but Not Equal


As I mentioned yesterday I will be writing a four part series of blog posts on differentiation. This is the first post in that series.

One of the myths about differentiation is that, "how can you do that because you are making things easier for those students"

This is a misunderstood myth about differentiation. Rather differentiation is making things fair and  leveling the playing the field if you will.  To believe in this myth is like saying a student who wear glasses has an unfair advantage over students who don't wear glasses. I don't think anyone would ever say that, and by the same means differentiated instruction is giving the students who need "glasses" what they need to succeed.

Kelly Tenkely, a good friend mine, gave the following analogy; No parent would expect all the students in a first grade class to all loose their baby teeth at the same time. Yet parents and sometimes teachers expect all students to be able to read at the same time.  Imagine a parent being upset that other students in the class have lost more baby teeth than their child.

Therefore we do accept this idea and concept of fair but not equal but for some reason when it comes to teaching we believe everything has to be equal.


I came across the following Edutopia post written two years ago

"Fair Isn’t Equal: Seven Classroom Tips"

Here are some key points the author makes: 

If you ask students what are the most important qualities they like in teachers, one of the universally top-mentioned is fairness. Teachers and schools strive to be fair and build programs and polices based on this value. 
But what is fair? Many define it as treating everyone the same, but I would argue that doing so is the most unfair way to treat students. Students are not the same. They have different motivations for their choices, different needs, different causes for misbehavior and different goals. I think this is good, because wouldn't the world be very boring if we were all the same?
The most glaring example of the misunderstanding between fair and equal is in progressive consequence organization. The first violation results in the same consequence for all; the second infraction, more severe, is still the same for all. This continues throughout the sequence. A vast majority of schools and classes use this model. There is great danger in using progressive consequence schemes. No one would go to a doctor who treats all headaches the same, since the cause for one may be allergies and the other a tumor. Identical treatment for two students who don't do homework for different reasons -- one who has to help at the family business after school, and one who watches too much television -- is no different than that crazy doctor with the single cure for all headaches."  

Our goal is for all of our students to succeed and for some that's giving them the tools
 ( "glasses" ) to help them.  Does the whole class need "glasses" NO!  is that being Fair ? The answer is YES 
Differentiation isn't making things easier or letting students off the hook rather it is insuring all the students have the same chance to succeed. In a strange way but making things FAIR  while at the time may not always be equal but by doing so we are giving all of our students an EQUAL chance to succeed 

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