Some school counselors set trends. They innovate, love technology, and are on the cutting edge of the next great thing in education. With these counselors, great ideas take off. On the surface, most people would think that this kind of counselor initiative is a wonderful thing. How could innovation be viewed with a negative lens?
The reality is that this situation does create opportunities, but only for “pockets” of kids. Some students get a great experience while others do not, creating inequities in the system. It is similar to the impact of affluent parents on the education system, as outlined in the New York Times podcast, Nice White Parents. Doing more for some, even with noble intent, leaves others behind.
School leaders know that a systematic approach creates equity for all. As a district tries to ensure equitable student learning, they need to create clarity: what does an equitable education look like?
At the very root, inequities are created by systems that do not give every student the same opportunities. This does not mean all students receive a 100% in everything, but rather that students all have equal access to success. For example, by increasing student agency, outcomes can be improved by reviewing pre-requisite requirements at the high school level. At times, it might be hard to draw a straight line between inequities and their impact on student learning. In the NAEP’s Achievement Gap Data Breakdown, the data clearly shows how inequitable education has affected students over the years. The negative impact is undeniable but not easily solved.
Leaders must be intentional and transparent in leveling the playing field to create equity. Action steps might include implementing technology, tracking data, and following up to ensure accountability, while making sure all students feel that their choices are valued.. One example of a tool that hits all these marks is XAP’s Choices360.
Leveraging technology is one of the best options available to ensure equitable student learning. By reducing human bias and increasing opportunities and exposure for all students, a level playing field can be created.
Here is an example of how this might work for school counselors helping students plan for their careers. A counselor coaching a student about college selection, enlistment into the armed forces, participating in CTE courses, beginning an apprenticeship, or going to a technical school might have preconceived ideas about the student’s future. While the counselor might have good intentions, their prediction of the student’s interests and abilities might limit the options that they guide the student toward. But when technology like XAP’s Choices360 is used, the student guides their own future through ongoing career and academic planning. All options are open, which is the definition of equity.
Technology usage also enables educators to see objectively if all students are accessing the tools in the same way. This data tracking shows both progress and possible systemic issues. By checking search history, minutes logged, and completion of assignments, teachers can provide the needed support for individual students.
Finally, without professional development for all staff, technology will not be the cure-all for inequities. Professional development is important for both the “why” of creating equitable systems and the “how” for using and operating them with the students. If gaps exist in the counselor’s knowledge of the tool, some students might have access while others do not.
So, how can a tool like XAP’s Choices360 create better career and academic planning outcomes for students? It can help all students believe in their future. In many instances, belief is the hurdle that students must jump over. If school systems never address that hurdle, inequities will continue. Too many high school students do not have a post-secondary plan. But if they know their options for their own future, they can create a roadmap to achieve their goals. A tool like Choices360 ensures equitable student learning—students not only can have a plan, but they can also use integrated features like Common App to take actionable steps toward success.
This is just one example, but these overarching concepts apply to reading, math, and social emotional learning tools. Historically, many students have missed learning opportunities because the system was not designed to give access to everyone. Inequities will not disappear overnight with the addition of technology, but it is a step toward ensuring equitable student learning for all.
Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.
To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!