Key Findings: Equity in Education

Barriers to Equity in Education

Educators say that equity in education is not the same as equality. While students should have equal access to high-quality teachers and school leaders, as well as instructional resources, equity means that each student has the individual supports needed to reach his or her greatest potential. In today’s schools, the barriers to achieve equity are pervasive across school poverty levels and are found both in- and out-of-the- school environment.


  • Teachers and principals agree (97%) that equity in education should be a national priority.
  • Teachers and principals also agree (87%) that many of their students face barriers to learning that come from outside of the school environment.
  • High percentages of principals across all school poverty levels say they have students who are experiencing family or personal crisis (95%), in need of mental health services (91%), living in poverty (90%), coming to school hungry (85%), and in need of healthcare services (82%).
  • Although resources that help address barriers to learning are reported as not adequately available in many schools, the largest disparities based on school poverty levels are in access to fiction and nonfiction books at home (69% of educators in high-poverty vs. 20% in low-poverty schools say these are not adequately available), and family involvement in student learning (68% vs. 18%).

Families & Communities as Important Partners

Involving families in children’s learning is considered important for student success, but many educators need help engaging families. In addition, educators are turning to community partners to help address barriers to learning, including providing health services, before- and after-school care, and food outside of the school day.


  • Ninety-nine percent of educators agree that “it is important to student success that families be involved in their children’s learning,” yet 74% say they need help engaging the families of their students. This need is especially great for teachers (84%) and principals (88%) in high-poverty schools, but is still prevalent in low-poverty schools (55% and 57% among teachers and principals respectively).
  • Forty-seven percent of educators say that professional development on ways to work effectively with families from all cultures is among the most important things educators should do to increase family engagement, yet only 27% say this is happening to the degree it should.
  • Maintaining ongoing, two-way communication with families is considered the most important activity educators should do to help families be engaged with their children’s learning, followed by many other communication-related activities and events. But, there are wide gaps between the percentage of educators who say communication activities are important and the percentage who say these are happening to the degree they should.
  • Sixty percent of principals say reaching out to community partners to offer services to families is among the most important things to help families be engaged with children’s learning. The most common programs and services that principals say are provided by community partners are mental health services for students (58%), before- and/or after-school programs/childcare (45%), healthcare services for students (44%), and food for students outside of the school day (41%).

Educators’ Funding Priorities & Personal Spending

Teachers’ and principals’ funding priorities for schools address barriers to learning, while reflecting their different roles in serving students. Both groups are using their own money to fill gaps in resources for the classroom—from books to technology—as well as the personal needs of students, including clothes and food.


  • Principals’ top funding priorities are investing in academic or social-emotional intervention initiatives and programs (60%), professional development (49%), student access to wrap-around services (48%), additional high-quality staff to reduce student-to-teacher ratio (47%), and early learning initiatives and programs (47%).
  • Teachers’ top funding priorities are additional high-quality staff to reduce student-to-teacher ratio (55%), high-quality instructional materials and textbooks (55%), technology devices and digital resources in school (47%), higher salaries (47%), and academic or social-emotional intervention initiatives and programs (46%).
  • On average in the past year, the teachers in the survey spent $530 of their own money on items for classroom or student use, with teachers in high-poverty schools spending $672 and teachers in low-poverty schools spending $495; principals spent $683, with those in high-poverty schools spending $1,014 and in low-poverty schools spending $514.
  • Only 46% of teachers in high-poverty schools receive discretionary funds from their school, district, or parent-teacher organizations, compared to 61% of teachers in low-poverty schools.
  • More than half of teachers (56%) use their own money to purchase books. The most-needed types of reading materials for their classroom libraries are culturally relevant titles (54%), books published in the last 3–5 years (51%), multiple copies of popular titles (48%), high-interest, low-reading-level books (48%), and magazines (48%).

Educators’ Commitment to the Profession

Teachers and principals want ongoing, relevant professional development and they identify the content they would like to pursue to grow as educators. Overall, while they acknowledge that there are challenges that come with the profession, they also say theirs is a rewarding career.


  • Teachers (97%) and principals (100%) agree that they “want effective, ongoing, relevant professional development.”
  • Principals desire professional development focused on leadership, school culture, and supporting learning, including strategies for leading and motivating staff (62%), strategies for working with families (59%), using data to inform instruction (57%), and strategies for developing a positive school culture (57%).
  • Teachers want professional development that will improve their instructional practice and support a culture of learning, including instructional strategies in their subject areas (57%), incorporating technology into lessons (54%), and strategies for working with families (47%).
  • Ninety-nine percent of educators agree that being a teacher or principal is a “challenging, but rewarding career,” and virtually all teachers (96%) and principals (99%) say that working with students is the “most satisfying part” of their school day.