Striving for Equity in Education
We are all stakeholders in the education system — as families, taxpayers or community members. Dr. Melissa A. Martinez wants to ensure that it’s working for everyone.
Martinez is an associate professor in Texas State University’s Department of Counseling, Leadership, Adult Education and School Psychology. She studies education equity, particularly in relation to Latina/o communities.
“Equity is ensuring that all students, regardless of background — race, language, socioeconomic status, any marker of difference — are provided with quality education,” Martinez explains. Importantly, this doesn’t mean using a one-size-fits-all curriculum or career track and expecting equal results across the board. Rather, it means giving the support that each person needs to reach their potential.
Martinez looks for gaps in the existing education research — “What voices are we not hearing?” — and fills them by talking to underrepresented stakeholders about their experiences. She gathers stories from students, teachers, administrators and faculty across the preschool-to-university landscape and analyzes them, looking for common themes. Unfortunately, those common themes include discrimination; our education system is not equitable. But Martinez hopes that her research will empower policymakers and communities to improve.
What does education equity look like in the classroom or the faculty lounge? It’s a combination of goals: representative numbers of Latina/o teachers, for instance, in a community’s schools. Innovative curricula that include multiple cultural perspectives and engage students authentically. Equal rates of high school and college graduation. Fewer accounts of discrimination at school. By defining the problems, we can create solutions.
Latina/o representation gap in Texas public schools:
Latina/o college graduation gap in Texas (2017):
ENROLLED AS FRESHMEN
BACHELOR'S DEGREES AWARDED
Sources: Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board