The Focus of Equity in School Systems


Photo used with permission from Holly Tellander

Picture of school board member Holly Tellander

Ava Parr, Staff Writer

This year has had many drastic life changes for people all around the world. COVID-19 has considerably altered our way of living. Schools have been significantly affected by this, with more students attending virtual school as cases rise.
Some students have been thriving in this environment, while others struggle to keep up with assignments. During this time, varying experiences of students show how student learning is not being held to an equitable standard.
The Stoughton Area School District School Board is taking steps to ensure that what we learn during this time can help improve the learning experience after COVID-19 dies down, and school returns to in-person learning. Two school board members weighed in on their thoughts about equity and education.
Holly Tellander is a member of the school board who spoke with me about her perspectives on learning, stating, “I don’t think education is a one-size-fits-all thing. I think everybody should be encouraged to identify their own learning goals, and I think when we take that piece out of it, when we don’t let students have a say in what they want to learn and whether or not they have learned it, and we take that self-reflective pace out of the student and only put it in the hands of professionals, that it makes learning become this passive experience. The truth is learning is not a passive experience, learning is a very active experience,” Tellander says.
Tellander believes it is important to understand students’ emotions before they can properly learn. “You have to be engaged, you have to feel safe, and I think that in general, I think equity is a vital piece of education. Its important that all of our students feel safe and as if they have agency over their learning and that is something the board takes seriously,” Tellander says.

Jill Patterson, also a school board member, shares some of the steps the school board is taking to make sure that the Stoughton Area School District can work to be more equitable, “The board has a standing agenda item to discuss equity at every meeting. This helps us to keep it at the forefront of our minds and makes sure that equity is a consideration in all of the board’s work and as such, reminds District staff that equity is a priority” Patterson says.
Patterson explains her favorite analogy for equity: “Some plants thrive in shady spots and some like the sun. It is equally lovely to have both in my yard, however, I need to be strategic about where I plant these plants and how I care for them based on what they need to thrive. When they are all given the conditions and environment that works best for them, they thrive. So it is with people too.”

Photo of school board member Jill Patterson (Photo used with permission from Jill Patterson)