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Unequal Access to Educational Resources

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On October 1, 2014, the Office of Civil Rights sent a “Dear Colleague” letter  to states, school districts, and schools reminding  school officials that  unequal access to educational resources is a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI).  Recipients of federal funding have a legal obligation to provide comparable educational resources to all students without regard to their race, color, or national origin sex or disability.

Just a few Dear Colleague letter highlights from the 28 page missal that engendered our commentary:

  • “The teachers, leaders, and support staff in a school are foundational to student learning and development. But disparities in the opportunity for students to benefit from strong teachers, leaders, and support staff — ones who, generally speaking, are qualified, experienced and accomplished — exist among and within districts, as well as among classes in the same school.
  • … Disparities in the level of access to these resources often reflect the racial demographics of schools, with schools serving the most students of color having lower quality or fewer resources than schools serving largely white populations even within the same district.
  • RE: Instructional Support Staff … low-income students and students of color are less likely to have access to counselors, and in turn to the information and tools necessary to make decisions about pursuing college or a career.
  • OCR may also evaluate…adequately resourced school libraries (or library media centers) provide teachers and students with up-to-date resource collections and tools to access and navigate those resources. Student learning from library resources is maximized when the content of the collection is aligned with the curriculum. The availability of information through online databases and internet access is also important in modern school libraries. OCR also considers how often students and teachers have the opportunity to use a library.”

The engagement of the Office of Civil Rights in providing continued Title VI guidance to school officials across the nation on the importance of equal access of educational resources for all students means that there is still a lot of work to do.

Clearly, in these resource challenged times, information literacy practice is a critical instructional strategy needed to close the equal access to educational resources gap, not only for students, but educators as well.

October is National Information Literacy Month…spread the word.

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