Conceptions of Equity: How Influential Actors View a Contested Concept

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Discussions of educational equity have played an important role in educational policy in the United States over the past 50 years, and advocates with a broad range of perspectives on reform have sought to claim the equity mantle. In this article, I examine aspects of equity, including the distribution of "inputs" to public education, the process of delivering education, and the outcomes of the educational process. I surveyed a series of experts in educational policy to identify influential actors in national debates. Based on that survey, I conducted 12 semistructured interviews with individuals and representatives of organizations identified as "influential," and collected documents from the same groups. Beliefs about equity among those with influence are both nuanced and, at times, in tension with other perspectives on equity. Important areas of common ground include an emphasis on outcomes as an important component of an equitable system of public education and a focus on groups identified as having been treated inequitably in the past. Despite common ground, critical differences emerged throughout this process. One clear point of differentiation was between those who focused on addressing issues of equity through market-oriented reforms and those who focused more on issues of school-level practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-21
Number of pages12
JournalPeabody Journal of Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


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