Achieving Equity in Education: Leveling Out the Classroom

Chelsea Penney
September 27, 2022

Written: September 2021

Updated: September 2022

When the school year begins, classrooms fill with students who have different skills, talents, and levels of understanding of academic concepts. No two classes are identical, and no two students are alike. Students likely came from several different classrooms the year before, and each of those teachers probably left off at various points in the curriculum. Concepts may fade over the summer without practice. Students are left with different levels of understanding.

Teachers have to begin their classes teaching concepts to students to meet state standards, but one lesson plan does not fit all. To create educational equity within the classroom, teachers must get all students up to speed to move forward with new lessons effectively. They must focus on closing the gaps to diminish the disparity in student achievement.

How do teachers gain an understanding of what concepts students have grasped? 

Many Proximity Learning teachers begin the school year using Canvas quizzes, Kahoot, and Nearpod to get to know their students before setting concrete lesson plans. These activities assess students’ skills and ask questions about their interests and learning style preferences. 

Example questions:

  • What are your hobbies?
  • What is your favorite subject?
  • What is your favorite color?
  • Do you prefer to work alone or in a group?
  • How do you like to spend family time?
  • Do you prefer projects or tests?

This information can be compiled over the first few weeks to determine how to move forward with lessons for that class, so students learn effectively. The research can also decide which students need extra help catching up, which are on track, and which are ahead of the curve.

How do teachers plan lessons when students in the same class are at different academic levels?

Certified teachers are most effective when they can differentiate instruction for each student based on their current level of understanding to achieve equity in education. Several online tools help teachers offer personalized assignments to meet students where they are and thereby accelerate learning. For example, Kahoot games can ask students different questions depending on their level of understanding.

What is differentiated instruction?

Differentiated instruction means personalizing lessons for each student. However, each class does not have to be unique. It can be as simple as altering the questions on the assignment to help students learn, and it can have a significant impact. 

Differentiation in the classroom is an art. Teachers must find balance for on-track, advanced, and remediate students in the same room. Each student will learn the most with tailored assignments. 

The goal for all students is to master the targeted concepts, but how do teachers achieve that when everyone is on a different level? 

New software tools can give students personalized lessons without the public embarrassment of a completely different assignment. Proximity’s Learning and Development Specialist of Instruction, Cody Reid, encourages teachers to utilize these programs to personalize instruction

As a former Proximity Learning teacher, Mr. Reid understands the importance of creating engaging assignments that help students practice the concepts. In addition, our remote teachers have the advantage of live online instruction. Classroom students are already logged in to the Zoom classroom with the teacher, so it is simple to implement additional software.

Last year, Mr. Reid gamified the math concepts his class was working on. He created a custom Dungeons & Dragons campaign for students to practice their math skills when interacting with characters in the game. He utilized a program called Prodigy, an educational gaming website, to create the lesson. 

The students took to it immediately because they loved the game's “choose-your-own-adventure” aspect. Mr. Reid even let them customize the villain and the scenarios based on their interests. As a result, engagement was high, and test scores flourished as students practiced skills in an enjoyable environment. 

Prodigy can also send students different questions based on their level. Students play the game and answer educational questions as they interact with characters. The program automatically sends them questions based on the lessons, but teachers can also intervene and feed students remediate or advanced questions to amplify learning. This avoids the embarrassment of giving a student a completely different assignment from the rest of the class. 

MobyMax can also help students catch up with engaging assignments and assessments. Intervention is sometimes difficult to measure, but it is built-in to these programs. These programs can easily monitor response to intervention (RTI) to ensure progress.

Other great tools to implement in the classroom include personalized TicTacToe Hyperdocs. Teachers can fill the grid with assignments, and students can pick 3 out of 9 to complete before they win TicTacToe. Students will appreciate the independence in choosing their activities, and teachers will ensure students practice various skills.

Teachers can tailor lessons to students by simply allowing them the freedom to ‘choose their own adventure’ in the classroom. Form small groups and use project-based learning to encourage problem-solving and learning from peers. Creative thinking from the teacher encourages a growth mindset for students. 

How do teachers measure student progress?

Mr. Reid encourages teachers to keep an eye on the individual grading functions built-in into the educational gaming programs to measure learning growth. He also uses spiraling and repetition to ask similar questions on the end-of-unit tests to ensure students progress and overcome previously missed questions. Lastly, teachers can look through students’ work to see if they can catch where the students were confused, help them correct the problem, and give them partial credit for working through it.

When all students reach the same level of understanding, a teacher’s job is simple: continue the growth. There will be more time to spend expanding their knowledge and increasing educational equity within the classroom. Implement creative strategies in the classroom to engage students and watch them flourish. 

If you want to impact students' lives, apply for a position with Proximity Learning today.

Learn more about Proximity Learning's mission to provide equity in education to 1 million students.

Chelsea Penney earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing from University of Colorado Denver and her Masters of Science in Marketing from Texas A&M University Commerce. She loves living in Austin, TX and working on the frontline of the many marketing initiatives for Proximity Learning.

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