Creating Innovative Learning Environments to Support Equitable Learning Opportunities

Future Ready Schools® (FRS) is the nation’s largest network of innovative and passionate educators committed to the belief that every child deserves equitable access to a personalized learning environment anchored in authentic and engaging experiences. As such, FRS works with school and district leaders to implement student-centered learning strategies to target existing inequities; remedy disparities in in-school and out-of-school technology access; and use technology to create equitable learning opportunities for all students.

Now, more than ever, the nation’s schools face high demands to prepare students for an information-rich, technologically sophisticated, entrepreneurial, global economy that requires a highly skilled, knowledgeable, flexible, and capable workforce. Yet many students—especially students of color and those from low-income families—do not receive necessary supports to achieve and succeed after high school. Many of the nation’s poor, rural, and underresourced schools do not have access to the technology needed to implement personalized digital learning strategies that could improve learning outcomes for all students. Moreover, persistent wealth gaps between schools and districts have the potential to further exacerbate the achievement gaps between children from low-income families and their more affluent peers.

As districts across the country transition to technology-enhanced student-centered learning, school leaders must prioritize and address the barriers that inhibit many students from receiving a high-quality twenty-first-century education.

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Technology is making it easier for students—regardless of age, gender, income, or geography—to learn anytime, anywhere. Through our collaboration with the Future Ready Schools® initiative, we’ve seen firsthand the powerful role technology can play in personalizing learning and improving student outcomes. The new Digital Equity Program will bring that power to even more underserved students and help us identify and scale best practices across the country.

Nicole Anderson

assistant vice president of corporate social responsibility, AT&T

Since its inception, FRS has infused equity-focused strategies into each of the seven “gears” of the Future Ready Framework to ensure that each student has the resources and support necessary to take full advantage of the learning opportunities that technology offers. Meanwhile, through its leadership institutes, state workshops, webinars, and other on-going professional learning opportunities, FRS helps school and district leaders build their capacity to identify and rectify systemic inequities that prevent historically underserved students from accessing rigorous and engaging learning experiences.

Recognizing that some districts need more individualized support to transition successfully to student-centered learning, FRS launched the Digital Equity Program in 2018 to ensure that historically underserved students have equitable access to opportunities that digital learning can provide. Through this program, leaders from twelve school districts that enroll high percentages of students of color and/or students from low-income families developed and implemented customized digital learning strategies designed to raise learning outcomes for all students and meet each district’s individual improvement needs. The districts—located in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Iowa, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, and Washington—received in-person and virtual technical assistance from the FRS team, access to FRS’s suite of resources, and connections with leaders from similar high-need districts to share school improvement and innovation practices.

Resources

Webinars

Equity IS Education

Many school communities are attempting to address these issues, but are addressing them in isolation. What we often fail to realize is that equity is education. If we want to close opportunity gaps for students, especially for marginalized groups, we must understand that these two issues are inseparable.

Webinars

Making Equity a Priority

In this webinar, Jerry Almendarez and Dr Kim Buryanek, discussed their participation in the Future Ready Schools Digital Equity Program and their efforts to use technology to address inequities among their districts' underperforming students.

Webinars

Exploring Equitable Digital Access

In this webinar, panelists discussed how school library programs help ensure that students have equitable digital access. School librarians are supporters and advocates for equitable access to collections tools using digital resources, programming, and services that support the school district’s strategic vision.

Case Studies

Innovation and Equity: Expanding Access to Advanced Placement Courses

Colton Joint Unified School District (CJUSD) is a large suburban school district located east of Los Angeles in San Bernardino County, California. The district serves a diverse enrollment of 23,288 students, 83 percent of whom are Latino and 81 percent receive free or reduced-priced meals. CJUSD maintains eighteen elementary schools (grades K–6), four middle schools (grades 7–8), three comprehensive high schools (grades 9–12), and a continuation high school.

Case Studies

Innovation and Equity: Improving Instruction Through Professional Learning

Sioux City Community School District (SCCSD), a small city district located in Woodbury County, Iowa, has a progressive history of supporting student success through innovative curricula and technology-enhanced learning environments. The district, which serves 14,600 students, maintains a strong community of motivated students, supportive staff, and strong leadership under the direction of Superintendent Paul Gausman, recognized as Iowa’s 2014 superintendent of the year.

Blog

An Equity Approach to Creating Future Ready Schools®

Educators across the country work diligently to provide learning experiences that are of high quality and relevant to the needs of today’s modern learners. Whether the point of intervention focuses on student engagement, literacy, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), Project Based Learning (PBL), or other innovative content, districts continue to evolve, and great work happens in schools every day that is intended to improve the learning opportunities available to all students. Despite the moderate success of these efforts, research from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), National Association of Education Progress (NAEP) and others consistently report persistent gaps in performance between the most vulnerable student groups (e.g., students of color, those with disabilities, those in rural schools/districts, etc.) and their white suburban counterparts.