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Going Deeper: Understanding Context

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Understanding Context

Policies and Equity

Policies play a significant role in shaping students' experiences in education. Policies at the national and state level trickle down to the local education level and impact curriculum changes, standardized testing requirements, teacher-hiring practices, educational technology integration, school choice, school safety and discipline, school funding allocations, boundary changes, teacher evaluations, teacher certification and professional development requirements, school accountability and performance measures, special education policies, among others. 

Education-related policies can have both positive and negative impacts as they shape the educational landscape and determine the opportunities and support available to students. Positive policies can create a conducive and enriching learning environment that fosters academic success, personal growth and well-being. For example, policies that focus on reducing class sizes can lead to more individualized attention and support from teachers, which can positively impact students' learning outcomes. Similarly, policies that promote inclusive education for students with disabilities ensure that every learner receives appropriate accommodations and resources to participate fully in the educational experience. Conversely, poorly designed or inequitable policies can have negative consequences, such as standardized testing policies that place excessive emphasis on test scores may lead to a narrowed curriculum where teachers focus primarily on test preparation at the expense of critical thinking and intellectual curiosity.

At the national level, and in the state of Colorado, data indicates the following issues significantly impact student development, opportunities and outcomes.

  • Achievement gaps based on different racial/ethnic groups and low-income students compared to their affluent peers.

  • School funding disparities often result in lower-income community schools having fewer financial resources despite higher needs among students that require additional financial investments. 

  • Disparities in access to quality early childhood education can disadvantage students with limited access based on their lack of school readiness.

  • School district boundaries can reinforce racial and economic segregation, which is still an issue when it comes to school choice and differing access to resources.

  • Disproportionate discipline practices still impact Black and Hispanic students through harsh disciplinary measures, such as suspensions and expulsions.

  • Students with disabilities still face disparities in access to appropriate support and services in addition to over-/underrepresentation of certain groups in special education.

  • Students, particularly in underrepresented communities, still have different levels of access to advanced coursework, such as AP or honors classes.

  • ELL students still face linguistic and cultural barriers in the classroom, impacting academic achievement.

  • Students still have differing levels of access to reliable internet and devices for remote learning, exacerbating existing educational inequalities.

  • Lack of racial and ethnic diversity among teachers remains an equity issue. Additionally, schools with the highest needs are more likely to have staff retention issues and tenure differences.

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Policy Best Practices

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