BOX 11-1

WHAT IS EQUITY?

The term “equity” has been used in different ways by different communities of researchers and educators. Equity as an expression of socially enlightened self-interest is reflected in calls to invest in the science and engineering education of underrepresented groups simply because American labor needs can no longer be met by recruiting among the traditional populations. Equity as an expression of social justice is manifested in calls to remedy the injustices visited on entire groups of American society that in the past have been underserved by their schools and have thereby suffered severely limited prospects of high-prestige careers in science and engineering. Other notions of equity are expressed throughout the education literature; all are based on the commonsense idea of fairness—what is inequitable is unfair. Fairness is sometimes considered to mean offering equal opportunity to all. The most commonly used definition of equity, as influenced by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education (1954, 1955) and Lau v. Nichols (1974), frames equity in terms of equal treatment of all.

outlined in this framework—but also that all students should have adequate opportunities to learn.

America’s children face a complex world in which participation in the spheres of life—personal, social, civic, economic, and political—require deeper knowledge of science and engineering among all members of society. Such issues as human health, environmental conservation, transportation, food production and safety, and energy production and consumption require fluency with the core concepts and practices of science and engineering. As McDermott and Weber [1] point out, a major goal for science education should be to provide all students with the background to systematically investigate issues related to their personal and community priorities. They should be able to frame scientific questions pertinent to their interests, conduct investigations and seek out relevant scientific arguments and data, review and apply those arguments to the situation at hand, and communicate their scientific understanding and arguments to others.

Students could go yet further, because a growing number of important occupations in the 21st century—including those in expanding fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as well as in many other segments of the workforce—will make use of the practices of scientific analyses, argumentation, communication, and engineering design. Providing more equitable access to the knowledge and practices associated with science- and engineering-related occupations requires a more equitable achievement of science and engineering



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