In order to go from equality to equity in the education system we must first understand some definitions. Equality means treating every student the same, while equity means making sure all students have the support they need to be successful; meaning some may need more support than others due to many factors and circumstances. Equity requires ensuring systems and processes are in place and aligned with an equal opportunity for success. School systems today produce mass education, one that is the same for all children regardless of their differences. It is time to start implementing changes that match children’s individual needs. This information was eloquently shared by Dr. Vera J. Blake for her presentation on “Providing an Equitable and Entitled Education for All Children” on February 3rd, 2020 for Venice Interfaith’s winter series American Racism. Dr. Blake spoke on many subjects regarding what it means to move to an education system that values equity and what that means. The goal of school systems should be to maximize the growth and learning of each student. If kids are not achieving or performing well in school, it is not their fault.
The future of school systems starts with implementing wellness mentoring programs that aid in crisis prevention, trauma-informed initiatives for students, educators and families. Fortunately, at Brookside Middle School, such a program exists. The Lean on Me Program launched in October 2019, spearheaded by Amy Weinberger and Jordan Stonecypher. The structure of the program is meant to support the youth during any challenging times, while implementing self-care awareness and conversations on emotional wellness. They believe that it takes a village to raise a child positively, from the parents to the educators to the community. Their philosophy is that in order to address academic performance, mental and physical health should be taken into consideration. They do this with three different tiers: Access to mentors for students; with this they can connect with other students, ask for help and learn different methods to address any challenges that may come up. Another is working with families in the form of book circles. Lastly, they also focus on the well-being of schoolteachers, administrators and personnel. Their goal is to reduce the responsibility and stress placed on the school’s staff in different ways. With all of this, they are currently working on initiatives to create a garden space as part of the wellness program. Their philosophy is that the environment in which the kids are learning in is a factor which contributes to their overall physical and emotional health, and their academic success. The Lean on Me program is a perfect example of what others schools should be implementing to improve not only education and success, but the overall well-being of the children and the community.