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Recent research from the UK has revealed that teachers in K-12 schools are unconsciously grading students in relation to their socioeconomic status. The data indicated that poorer or more disadvantaged students were graded more harshly resulting in lower grades. Some exploration into the situation in K-12 schools in other territories points to a widespread problem. This indicates more needs to be done towards widening participation in K12 schools.

Similar issues have been found in high schools in the US, where more disadvantaged students had lower reading scores and were less ACT ready. The most disadvantaged students in Ireland face similar barriers, as well as First Nations in Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While widening participation should already be a top priority for all education providers to improve the success outcomes of disadvantaged students, this evidence highlights a major responsibility on K-12 institutions to do more to support students.

Poorer or more disadvantaged students were graded more harshly resulting in lower grades.

diverse students widening participation in k12 schools

The Responsibility of K-12 Institutions

Previous research has highlighted the importance of K-12 school years for identifying and supporting students who are disadvantaged or in need of extra support. Many academically talented but disadvantaged students often fall out of high achievement in their K-12 years. This places a responsibility on K-12 schools and school leaders to focus on widening participation for disadvantaged students.

Schools should aim to eliminate the barriers and inequalities faced by their students and improve their educational success outcomes. Recognizing early on which students are struggling or most in need of support is the first step to achieving this. Other important steps include improved training and curriculum development to mitigate potential biases.

How to Improve Widening Participation in K12 Schools

The best way to improve the success outcomes of disadvantaged students is to provide the necessary extra support they need to achieve. This can help reduce the consequences of unconscious bias experienced by students. Institutions should aim to support both staff and students in the widening participation strategies. The most effective support comes in the form of identifying at-risk students for staff attention and sending automatic early alerts to staff when a student is performing poorly, disengaging in the classroom and experiencing higher absenteeism.

Early knowledge of at-risk students not only allows for early intervention but enables the creation of a personalized support plan, tailored to each students’ specific needs. To ensure all students have the same opportunity to succeed and achieve their full potential, the work begins with K-12 education.

Read about how SEAtS Software can help you achieve your widening participation goals on our solution page here.