Equity Literacy Project


A concrete wall with a tunnel offset to the center right. From left to right a black and white gradient transitions across the concrete wall. The word Equity is transposed on the right border in a darker text and the bottom left corner in a lighter text.INTRODUCTION

Contributor: Monica Shirley

I can remember sitting in Panera, during this time they were one of the few places with free wi-fi and studying for my Family Law final exam. As I poured over the material, the term equitable distribution kept coming up as it related to disseminating property during a divorce. It dawned on me that I really did not know what this term meant. I had always thought that equitable and equal were synonymous, but as I read the text, I realized that I was incorrect. I emailed my professor hoping for a quick response and to her credit, she emailed me back rather quickly. I will never forget what she said because although she was simply explaining a term I needed to know for the exam, her explanation proved to be relevant in so many areas. She basically stated that equal meant that each person got half or even parts of something. For example, if the couple had $100,000 in an account and it was dispersed equally, they would both receive $50,000 i.e., equal parts. Equitability, however, is different. Practicing equity requires more thought. It requires a deeper more critical look into the needs of the parties involved. Imagine a baseball game being played in a field and you come across three children who want to watch the game, but their view is obscured by a tall wooden fence. In order to help them, you go and find three boxes which are each 2ft tall. As you carry the boxes back you feel very proud of yourself because you have solved the problem and treated everyone the same. You distribute the boxes and each child climbs onto their respective box, however, another problem arises. What I failed to mention is that each child is of a different height. The tallest child stands on the box and now towers over the fence and can not only see the game but can climb over the fence now. The second child climbs on the box but still must stand on their tippy-toes to barely see over the fence and the last child climbs on their box but still cannot see over the fence at all. Alas, you go back on the hunt for boxes to fix the problem and miraculously you find three more boxes of different heights. One box is 1ft, another box is 2ft, and the third box is 3ft. You give the tallest box to the shortest child, the shortest box to the tallest child, and the last box to the remaining child. Now, each child can comfortably see over the fence and watch the game. In a nutshell, this is the definition of equity. You can distribute equal parts of something but for some whose needs a different, that still may not be enough to aid them in attaining their goal. Equity is centered on determining the needs of individuals and distributing time, property, resources, etc. in the manner that they require.





Favorable reception; approval; favor. The fact or state of being accepted or acceptable. [1]

Achievement Gaps

The difference in academic performance between groups of students is referred to as the “achievement gap” in education. The National Governors’ Association claims that race and class are factors in the achievement gap. There is still an achievement gap between minority and underprivileged students nationwide and their white counterparts; a gap which can be impacted by income. [2]


A person who associates or cooperates with another; supporter. [3]


Strayhorn (2012) offers seven elements that contribute to a positive sense of belonging on campus:

a.) Sense of belonging is a basic human need, b.) Is a fundamental motive, c.) Takes on heightened importance in certain contexts at certain times in certain populations, d.) Is related to, and seemingly is a consequence of, mattering, e.) Social identities intersect and affect college students’ sense of belonging, f.) Engenders other positive outcomes and g.) Must be satisfied on a continual basis and likely changes as circumstances, conditions, and contexts change. [4]

Civil Rights

Rights to personal liberty established by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and certain Congressional acts, especially as applied to an individual or a minority group.  [5]

Co-construction of Meaning

Productive dialog such as exploratory talk and collective argumentation, collaborative negotiation after socio-cognitive conflict, or as a process of reciprocal sense-making, joint construction of a shared understanding.[6]

Critical Consciousness

The ability to recognize and analyze systems of inequality and the commitment to take action against these systems. [7]

Cultural Deficit Theories

Scholars identified cultural deficit theories to argue that children of color were “victims of pathological lifestyles” that limited their ability to profit from education.[8]

Cultural Funds of Knowledge

The skills and knowledge that have been historically and culturally developed to enable an individual or household to function within a given culture; integrating funds of knowledge into classroom activities creates a richer and more highly scaffolded learning experience for students. [9]


The patterns of daily life learned consciously and unconsciously by a group of people. These patterns can be seen in language, governing practices, arts, customs, holiday celebrations, food, religion, dating rituals, and clothing, to name a few.  [10]


The perpetual removal of essential resources from a neighborhood, institution, individual, or group. [11]


Individual differences (e.g., personality, prior knowledge, and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, and ability as well as cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations. [12]

Empathetic Listening

Paying attention to another person with empathy [emotional identification, compassion, feeling, insight]. One basic principle is to “seek to understand before being understood.” [13]


Sending a clear message to the students that we believe in them…as valued partners in education and that knowledge has power. [14] [15]


Everyone having the same rights, opportunities, and resources. Equality stresses fairness and parity in having access to social goods and services. [16]


Everyone getting what they need in order to have access, opportunities, and a fair chance to succeed. It recognizes that the same for everyone (equality) doesn’t truly address needs and therefore, specific solutions and remedies, which may be different, are necessary. [17]

Equity could be defined as providing educational opportunities and support that meet the needs of the community, especially those who are historically underserved, marginalized, or disproportionately impacted. Equity and equitable education assume rigor and equitable outcomes for all groups. Equity is complex and experienced or demonstrated simultaneously on multiple levels: personally, interpersonally, organizationally or institutionally, and systemically.

Equity Framework

According to Curtis Linton (2011), the equity framework includes necessary beliefs, expectations, and foundations educators need to guarantee that students succeed, rather than simply hoping that the students will conform to the teaching habits.

According to Linton (2011), personal equity is defined as centering yourself in equity. That centering includes claiming responsibility as an educator in a “journey to racial literacy.” [18]

Racial literacy is explained as the ability to talk with people in order to understand and address racially loaded controversies (Bolgatz, 2005); racial literacy is grounded in the idea that we must be able to be fluent in issues of race and understand the power and impact it has upon us and our students in our institution. [19]

Racial and equity consciousness challenges people to become the best practitioners through developing our ability to see racial inequities and their structural roots (Bensimon & Malcolm, 2014). We come to this skill set through developmental processes that include subjective and objective elements (i.e. self-knowledge, empathy, a racial knowledge base, an awareness of structural inequities and power, and practice.)

Group Norms

Set the tone of a class, provide clear guidelines on how to behave, decrease instances of incivility, and enable students and lecturers to feel safe expressing their ideas or points of view. [20]

Historical Education Debt*

The longitudinal absence of educational redress paid to Black, Indigenous, Latine, Asian, and Pacific Islander peoples for exploited labor during enslavement, genocide, settler colonialism, Jim Crow, and De Facto segregation.[21]


An environment and commitment to respect, represent, and accept diverse social groups and identities; an environment where all people feel like they belong. (In K-12 learning environments, inclusion can sometimes also refer to the practice of integrating students with disabilities into the classroom setting). [22]


An unjust situation or condition when some people have more rights or better opportunities than other people.[23]


A situation in which the rights of a person or a group of people are ignored, disrespected, or discriminated against. [24]


Crenshaw’s (1991) theory of Intersectionality recognizes how the overlapping of social identities and structures influences one’s experiences and sense of self.


The process of separating an individual, group, or institution from essential resources with the purpose of starving it into non-existence. [25]


The process of moving an individual, group, or institution to the periphery or to permanent insignificance.[26]


Encouraging and modeling overtly welcoming interactions between students of different races, ethnicities, genders, and abilities, student achievement increases. [27]

Personal Equity

According to Linton (2011), personal equity is defined as centering yourself in equity. That centering includes claiming responsibility as an educator in a “journey to racial literacy.” [28]note]

Plessy v. Ferguson 

1896 U. S. Supreme Court decision that "upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the 'separate but equal' doctrine." [29]


Refers to people who are in the process of understanding and exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are often seeking information and support during this stage of their identity development. [30]

Social Justice

Social justice could be defined as both a process and a goal. Social justice is a way of seeing and acting aimed at resisting unfairness and inequity while enhancing freedom and possibility for all. It focuses on how people, policies, practices, curricula, and institutions may be used to liberate rather than oppress others, particularly disproportionately impacted persons.

Socio-Political Awareness

Demonstrating awareness of the issues facing students and communities and incorporating relevant topics to help students and/or educators enact positive change. [31]



Someone who says or does something harmful or malicious to another person intentionally and unprovoked. [32]


An inclination or preference either for or against an individual or group that interferes with impartial judgment. [33]


An unreasonable or irrational attachment to negative stereotypes and prejudices. [34]

Cultural Appropriation

When people use specific elements of a culture (e.g., ideas, symbols, images, clothing) that misrepresent and/or disrespect the culture of that marginalized group of people. It usually happens when one group exploits the culture of another group, often with little understanding of the group’s history, experience, and traditions. [35]


Make (secret or new information) known. [36]


The denial of justice and fair treatment by both individuals and institutions in many arenas, including employment, education, housing, banking, and political rights. Discrimination is an action that can follow prejudicial thinking. [37]


To feel apprehensive or uneasy. [38]

Hate Crime

A criminal act against property, a person, or a group where the victim is intentionally targeted because of their actual or perceived race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, gender/gender identity, or ethnicity. [39]


Unreasoning fear of or antipathy toward homosexuals and homosexuality. [40]

Implicit Bias

The unconscious attitudes, stereotypes, and unintentional actions (positive or negative) towards members of a group merely because of their membership in that group. These associations develop over the course of a lifetime beginning at a very early age through exposure to direct and indirect messages. When people are acting out of their implicit bias, they are not even aware that their actions are biased. In fact, those biases may be in direct conflict with a person’s explicit beliefs and values. [41]


Refers to a lack of fairness or justice; unfair and avoidable differences in treatment or experience. [42]


Strong or aggressive masculine pride. [43]


A system of society or government ruled by a woman or women. [44]


The everyday slights, indignities, put-downs, and insults that people of color, women, LGBT populations, and other marginalized people experience in their day-to-day interactions. Microaggressions can appear to be a compliment but contain a “meta-communication” or hidden insult to the target groups to which it is delivered. They are often outside the level of conscious awareness of the perpetrator, which means they can be unintentional. These messages may be sent verbally (“you speak good English”), non-verbally (clutching one’s purse more tightly), or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using American Indian mascots). [45]


An unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power.[46][47]
The exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner. [48]


A social system in which power is held by men, through cultural norms and customs that favor men and withhold opportunity from women. [49]


Prejudging or making a decision about a person or group of people without sufficient knowledge. Prejudicial thinking is frequently based on stereotypes. [50]


Prejudice and/or discrimination against people based on their real or perceived sex. Sexism is based on a belief (conscious or unconscious) that there is a natural order based on sex. [51]


A simplified and standardized conception or image invested with special meaning and held in common by members of a group. [52]




Adams, Megan et al. Culturally Relevant Teaching: Preparing Teachers to Include All Learners.

Aguilar, Elena. Coaching for Equity: Conversations that Change Practice.

Cochrane, Sharlene et. al. Culturally Responsive Teaching and Reflection in Higher Education: Promising Practices From the Cultural Literacy Curriculum Institute.

Darling, Felicia. Teachin’ It: Breakout Moves That Break Down Barriers for Community College Students.

Gay, Geneva. Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, and Practice.

Love, Bettina. We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Freedom.

Loewen, James W. Lies. My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong.

Allows the reader to consider information about key figures and events that were omitted or misrepresented in most American history texts.

Pickett, Clyde W. et al. Inclusive Directions: The Role of the Chief Diversity Officer in Community College Leadership.

Pitre, Abul et. al. The Gloria Ladson-Billings Reader.

Pirdhai, Fatima. Culturally Responsive Pedagogy: Working Towards Decolonization, Indigeneity, and Interculturalism.

Sensoy, Ozlem and DiAngelo, Robin. Is Everyone Really Equal: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education.

Provides definitions of essential DEI concepts and terms opening with a description of social justice, fairness, and equality and going into critical theory from there.

School: The Story of American Public Education, Beacon Press. 2001.

Sinek, Simon. Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.

Spring, Joel. The American School.

Strayhorn, Terrell. College Students’ Sense of Belonging: A Key to Educational Success for All Students.

Tierney, W. Diversifying Digital Learning: Online Literacy and Educational Opportunity.

Verschelden, C. Bandwidth Recovery: Helping Students Reclaim Cognitive Resources Lost to Poverty, Racism, and Social Marginalization


Teaching Religious Literacy

A magazine that promotes the value of teaching religious literacy and it is brought from the perspective of two scholars, one who is a religious literary specialist and the other  a director of education and curriculum reform at the Hindu American Foundation.

Haynes, Charles C.  A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools. First Amendment Center. 2010.

Moore, Diane,  Kerby, Lauren. Religion in Elementary and Secondary Education in the United States. Oxford University Press, 2018.

Critical Multicultural Pavilion

Social justice educators have long been utilizing the robust compilation of curricular materials, relevant social justice news and publications, and links to related resources compiled by Dr. Paul Gorski who has been a leader in social justice advocacy and education for decades and now leads the Equity Literacy Institute.

Learning for Justice

Originally Teaching for Tolerance, Learning for Justice was started to support the mission of the Southern Poverty Law Center to provide classroom resources, professional development tools, and media for educators to create inclusive school communities and advance human rights.

Race, Racism and the Law

An article database that contains resources relating to race and law.

GLSEN Educator Resources

Formerly called the Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Educator Network, GLSEN advocates for LGBTQ+ people in schools and provides resources and trainers for educators to better serve their LGBTQ+ students and communities.

National Center for Transgender Equality

NCTE serves trans people and communities through state and federal advocacy as well as coordinating and supporting initiatives that help trans people navigate legal and other challenges related to day-to-day life, such as changing names and sex markers on legal documents. They collaborate with other organizations to serve trans people across racial, ethnic, national, and other identities.

Campus Pride

Campus Pride helps prospective and current college students identify LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities and resources to help them navigate colleges. The organization also provides resources for higher education staff and instructors to better serve and connect with LGBTQ+ students.

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