©2018 Equity Literacy Institute, an EdChange initiative

Equity Literacy:

Definition and Abilities


Equity literacy is a framework for cultivating the knowledge and skills that enable us to be a threat to the existence of inequity in our spheres of influence. More than cultural competence or diversity awareness, equity literacy prepares us to see even subtle ways in which access and opportunity are distributed unfairly across race, class, gender identity, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, language, and other factors. By recognizing and deeply understanding these conditions, we are prepared to respond to inequity in transformational ways in the immediate term. We also strengthen our ability to foster longer-term change by redressing the bigger institutional and societal conditions that produce the everyday manifestations of inequity.

We built the equity literacy framework after careful consideration of the strengths and limitations of existing frameworks for attending to diversity in schools and other organizations and systems. We were particularly concerned with popular approaches like “cultural competence” and their vague focus on “culture.” These approaches mask the inequities that cause educational disparities. Equitable educators should be proficient not only with cultural knowledge, but also with the knowledge and skills to ensure and advocate for equity. 


1. Ability to Recognize even the subtlest biases and inequities


Equity literate educators:

  • notice subtle bias in learning materials and classroom interactions;

  • show curiosity about ways school policy and practice might disadvantage some

    students in unintentional (or intentional) ways; and

  • reject deficit views that outcome inequalities (like test score disparities) are the

    result of the cultures or mindsets of students of color, students experiencing poverty, or other marginalized-identity students.

2. Ability to Respond to biases and inequities in the immediate term


Equity literate educators:

  • develop the facilitation skills and content knowledge necessary to intervene

    effectively when biases or inequities arise in a classroom or school;

  • cultivate in students the ability to analyze bias and inequity in classroom

    materials, classroom interactions, and school policies; and

  • foster conversations with colleagues about equity concerns in their schools.

3. Ability to Redress biases and inequities in the long term

Equity literate educators:

  • advocate against inequitable school practices like racially or economically

    biased tracking and advocate for equitable practices;

  • never confuse celebrating diversity with equity, such as by responding to racial

    conflict with cultural celebrations; and

  • teach about sexism, poverty, racism, ableism, transphobia, and heterosexism.

4. Ability to Create and Sustain bias-free and equitable classrooms, schools, and institutional cultures

Equity literate educators:

  • express high expectations for each student through higher-order teaching;

  • understand that inequities are operating right now in their spheres of influence and proactively advocate for the institutional change necessary to eliminate them at their roots rather than waiting for individual people to report, and then episodically responding to, individual manifestations of that inequity; and

  • prioritize the interests of students whose interests historically have not been prioritized in all policy and practice decisions and in the cultivation of institutional culture.

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