“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” — Maya Angelou
If “variety is the spice of life”, diversity is the key to any successful educational environment. Diverse learning communities should include students, faculty, and staff from varying religions, abilities, sexual orientations, cultures, ethnic and racial groups, socioeconomic statuses, world views, and more. Diversity in an educational situation allows the type of exposure that creates comfort for groups who are often underrepresented in educational situations. It also creates a healthy discomfort that leads to exploration, communication, and understanding. Learning in a diverse environment affords all students experiences that they can draw upon in larger university settings and future workplaces. Growing up in diverse settings allows students to relate to others and to be relatable by others.
Equity is defined as “the quality of being fair and impartial.” Educational equity refers to equal access and achievement levels to all students regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, zip code, among others. Historically, the US has failed at providing equitable educational experiences to all children. Equity means equal funding, equal facilities, access to top quality teachers, equal resources regardless of the school, school district, and state. Charter school missions are very often built on the principles of educational equity and are aimed at providing equitable educational experiences to low-income families, students of color, and students living in underserved communities.
Having educational access means that each student has the opportunity to learn in the best way for his/her learning needs. Access means providing accommodations that level the playing field. Access does not mean equal treatment. Access means that those who start at a disadvantage, or who have obstacles to their learning, are given an opportunity to learn that includes individualized accommodations that reduce disadvantages and knock down obstacles on the pathway to learning. Access believes that all students can learn if given a chance.
Rigor defines the learning environment. A rigorous environment is one that provides opportunities to learn across disciplines and with creativity, personal accountability, and depth of knowledge. All of the academic experience- curriculum, schoolwork, expectations, instruction, etc.- culminate to form an educational experience that is personally and intellectually stimulating. Rigor is the foundation for thinking, questioning, communicating, teaching, and learning. Without rigor, the learning environment becomes uninteresting, detached, fragmented, and almost pointless. Rigor creates scholars.