Nearly 600 educators from across the state rolled up their sleeves to tackle achievement and opportunity gaps for their students at the first day of the Equity Symposium on Thursday.
The inaugural event organized by the San Diego County Office of Education featured education activist Pedro Noguera, who challenged the attendees to implement strategies that impact equity.
"Equity is often confused with equality," Noguera said during the opening keynote.
We can't treat every student the same, because they're not, he told the packed crowd of superintendents, principals, teachers, counselors, and other administrators.
"Equity is not holding different kids to different standards," he said. "It's giving each student what they need to be successful."
Noguera's words and energy for change set the tone for district teams to analyze their latest student test data and begin their equity strategy.
"He delivered hard truths in love, and simultaneously developed urgency around the biggest needs in our schools," said Erin Koning, an account executive with Scholastic, a gold sponsor of the event. "This is an important conference shining a light on equity, which is something Scholastic is passionate about."
Later, attendees heard from inspiring educators from local districts and across the state on their equity journey, both the challenges and successes.
The day closed with San Diego County students sharing their experiences in school. Their comments ranged from connecting with teachers, dealing with stress, working for points versus learning and understanding, and family problems.
On Friday, the symposium starts its second day with breakout sessions on a variety of topics including grading, school climate, teaching, and leadership, all with a focus on ensuring equity for all students.
The County Office has made equity a priority through a new Equity and Access team, increased professional learning for educators focused on equity at all levels, and its work through the San Diego County Achievement Gap Task Force.
"Our belief is that the students' ZIP code, ethnicity, or level of education or economics of their parents should not matter," said SDCOE Deputy Superintendent Debbie Beldock at the Symposium opening. "All students should receive the highest quality instruction and be afforded the equitable opportunities."
Read what attendees had to say about the event on Equity Symposium Storify.