Hanna Skandera on Equity & Opportunity

November 2018

A Letter from the Editor-in-Chief

We must continue to meet students where they are…
Hanna Skandera, Editor-in-Chief

Dear Readers,

Hanna Skandera Headshot We live in an expansive country, and we honor and enjoy its diversity — a collection of towns, villages, cities and states of all shapes and sizes. I should know. In New Mexico, I served as the secretary of education in the fifth largest state as measured by land area, with a population of only 2 million people. Some entire school districts served no more than 50 students.

The education delivery system and student experience in Quemado, New Mexico, where the superintendent is also the basketball coach and the bus driver, is vastly different from that of Albuquerque — the 32nd largest city in the country. The barriers to learning are quite different as well.

I am delighted to serve as the new editor-in-chief of The Line and leverage this publication to address those differences and encourage constructive conversation instead of tuning out voices that do not readily comport with our ideological tendencies or instinctive geographic biases. When we open our minds, we will learn more and uncover opportunities for collaboration.

In this issue of The Line, we explore the theme of equity and opportunity. Too often, we confuse equity of opportunity with equality of outcomes. Equality of outcomes should be evidence of true equity of opportunity. When we demand that we equalize outcomes without providing equity of opportunity, we fail to deliver on a great American promise — America is the “land of opportunity.” As such, we promise our children a sufficient “set of circumstances” to achieve and succeed in life, most notably the ability to make choices and decisions. As they grow, they are free to think, worship and believe as they please, for example. They can make, sell and buy products freely. Every child has the right and ability to earn a public education, a pre-requisite for success and a pillar in our promise.

America’s standing in the world rests on every successive generation gaining the knowledge and skills to lead, collaborate and compete. Does it rattle our conscience, then, to know that NAEP scores have remained largely static over the last two years or that a vast number of students lack the civic knowledge and soft skills necessary to engage and contribute in life? These are foundational education components necessary to critically think and make decisions.

If we are not concerned, what notions have we allowed to temper our worry? What excuses have we accepted and endorsed? Is there a different way to look at public education that focuses more intently on closing what one might call “opportunity gaps” in how we deliver education in the diverse settings and contexts of our country?

This issue of The Line grapples with the expectation that education must be delivered to students no matter where they are born or live. But there is no question that the characteristics of community can influence opportunity to receive a high-quality education. This fact will ring true as you read about the educational experiences and realities from the perspective of three elementary school teachers: from the rural Mississippi Delta, the Long Island suburbs and Salt Lake City. We will explore the challenges of education in each type of geography and what strategies are working to raise student achievement.

In this issue, we also will model a civil exchange on the merits of President Donald Trump’s proposal to combine the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor. We will feature National Teacher of the Year, Mandy Manning, and highlight standout leaders like Superintendent of Louisiana, John White, and Superintendent of Sacramento, Jorge Aguilar. Finally, Howard Fuller, Ph. D., will bring us the “Last Word” on these issues of equity and opportunity from the perspective of an African-American education leader.

We must continue to meet students where they are, resist the temptation to use our extraordinary diversity as an excuse for poor performance, identify the practical impediments that prevent our children from learning at their highest potential and innovate until we have found a way to bring a stellar education into every American community.

In these pages, we issue a call to educate our students well — whoever they are and right where we find them, embracing the expectation established long ago that every child in our nation’s care receive the opportunity to succeed in the life that they have been promised so that every child knows what it means to live in the land of opportunity.

In these pages, we issue a call to educate our students well — whoever they are and right where we find them…

Hanna Skandera Signature


Hanna Skandera
Editor-in-Chief, The Line

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