As a country do we truly believe in independence, freedom and equality for all? On this Fourth of July, my thoughts run to the traditional topics but I tend to see everything through an education lens, so today is no different.

I fundamentally believe that a person is not free until he or she has equal access to high-quality educational opportunities. When we speak of the achievement gap, what we really mean is an opportunity gap, which I’ll continue to write about more fully.

When we think through funding equality, we need to think beyond numbers if we truly want equal access to opportunity.

Our county, for example, assigns the number of counselors at a school based on student numbers. At first glance this seems reasonably fair. Until you look the realities of the schools. Several of our schools have over 50% mobility rates, which means those counselors are processing significantly more students who are also likely to have significantly higher needs.  Each of those students receives less individualized attention because counselors are assigned “equally” based on numbers.

In an elementary school where students come to school hungry and unprepared with the skills needed to interact successfully in a school setting, the same number of counselors and teachers are assigned as a school in a higher socioeconomic neighborhood. Again, on the surface it looks like equal treatment because the numbers are the same. However, for those children in lower socioeconomic areas to truly have equal access to the educational opportunities, they need more supports initially.

We need to think about equity and access to opportunity more complexly than simple number calculations. How far are we willing to go to provide real access?