One-Size-Does-Not-Fit-All In Education

For students to be successful, they need equitable - not just equal, access to education. 


May 3, 2022

With the belief that all children have the right to equal access to education no matter their race, ethnic background, religion, sex, or socioeconomic status, the public school system was established. Fashioned into eight-hour days, standardized tests, bulky textbooks, and block schedules, this model has been passed down for generations. Unfortunately, hand-me-downs are never an exact fit. 

The problem with one-size-fits-all is that it fails to account for distinctiveness. In education, it assumes every student learns the same way, but extensive research has proved otherwise. Not only are there different learning styles but each child has a unique set of emotional, social, and financial needs that also impact how they learn. To better address and advocate for the individual, associations work with legislators and policymakers to ensure equitable and inclusive education for all.

The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is one of the organizations that has embraced the responsibility of ensuring high-quality and adequate funding for children with special needs. A key advocate in the education sector, CEC regularly works with state and local education districts, the federal government, and other key policymakers to influence and shape policies that support publicly funded education, special education, and early intervention. In addition to setting standards in diversity, equity, and inclusion through legislative advocacy, CEC’s team also aims to educate legislators and the public about the benefits society receives when we invest in the education of children with special needs.

CEC started our advocacy work for individuals with disabilities in education over 100 years ago, and we have come so far thanks to the entire special education community, including parents and families. When we fight for inclusivity and equity for all, we are fighting for what is needed to help these kids reach their potential. It takes all of us stepping up to continue to be their voice for the next 100 years.

- Chad Rummel, Executive Director, CEC

Similarly, associations like TESOL International Association (TESOL) were formed out of a need to represent and advocate for teachers and administrators at all educational levels - specifically for the English language field. Through its advocacy campaigns, educational events, and strategic partnerships with other associations and advocates, TESOL has championed for the success of English Language Learners (ELLs) worldwide for over 50 years. Additionally, TESOL hosts an annual Advocacy & Policy Summit to train educators on how to effectively advocate for their students and for themselves as professionals in the education sector. Like CEC, however, TESOL’s members faced significant financial setbacks, insufficient access to technology, and crumbling infrastructures. These factors, along with others, ultimately contributed to high rates of staff burnout, educator shortages, and a decline in student performance.

Historically, the decisions that most affect students and educators have largely been made without their input - even at a local and federal level. For instance, under the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the federal government set a goal to pay states up to 40% of the excess cost of educating students with disabilities, in order to provide children with disabilities the services and support they need at no cost to their parents. Despite serving over seven million students in the U.S., IDEA hardly receives the full funding it requires, contributing to existing disproportionalities in education that greatly affect students. Particularly, inequities in education tend to affect those with specific needs and disabilities or children who require language support, as well as their instructors. Without proper representation, associations have assumed the responsibility of educating policymakers on the distinct challenges and urgent issues relating to their industry.

“To be an advocate in the education sector, particularly in the English language field, means that the organization educates decision-makers on the effects their decisions and policies have on the lives of educators and their students.”

- Amber Crowell Kelleher, Executive Director, TESOL

Aside from informing lawmakers on the impacts of their decisions and setting the standard for professional practices within the education sector, organizations around the world are still reeling from the prior limitations of poorly funded institutions. Now, many schools lack options beyond paper packets or must continue to use instructional practices that don’t go beyond the limitations of a screen. Many instructors faced challenges in purchasing necessary equipment or creating lesson plans for more interactive subjects, such as science.

Reduced access to resources, support, and funding have led organizations like the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) to the forefront of transforming the education sector by ensuring their members are equipped with the resources and support they need to maintain professional growth and advance the profession of science teaching. In addition to its advocacy efforts, NSTA also focuses on professional learning, inclusive classrooms, and increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce overall.

There’s been a lot of talk about the need for educators to maintain grit and resilience during times of instability, but the truth is – educators have always been this way. What educators actually need is to be properly supported and funded.
- Dr. Erika Shugart, Executive Director, NSTA

NSTA recently expanded its robust programs to serve the science teaching profession and its members and aims to maintain growth in critical areas of science and STEM education, despite the effects of the pandemic. According to NSTA, the key to advancing the science profession has been rooted in encouraging students to actively participate in science/STEM activities. Without educators to guide, nurture, and support the learning development of students - the future growth and stability of the science and other allied industries would not be possible.

While the education sector has constantly shifted and adapted to fit the needs of students, there is no denying the lack of support available to students with particular sets of needs - and their instructors. By underinvesting in education and ignoring the inequities in our educational models, we are robbing millions of children of the opportunity to succeed. As TESOL, CEC, and NSTA suggested, we can begin to restore the promise of equal access to high-quality education by simply investing more in students, educators, and schools. Ultimately, greater investments in educators and schools translate to improved student outcomes, which will lead to a stronger workforce, economy, and future for all.


About CEC:
CEC works to ensure there is high-quality education that is inclusive and equitable for individuals with disabilities. They do this by cultivating, supporting, and empowering education professionals who work with individuals with disabilities, advocating on their behalf, advancing the profession, and building a community of support within special education.

About TESOL:
TESOL International Association is the trusted global authority for knowledge and expertise in English language teaching. A professional community of more than 11,000 English language professionals representing over 150 countries, TESOL fosters the exchange of ideas to advance the expertise of those teaching English while supporting equity, diversity, and multilingualism. For over 50 years, TESOL has strived to advance its mission with programs, publications, and services to expand its global presence and connectivity throughout the field, share its knowledge and expertise, and amplify its voice through advocacy.

About NSTA:
The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) is a vibrant community of 40,000 science educators and professionals committed to best practices in teaching science and its impact on student learning. NSTA offers high-quality science resources and continuous learning so that science educators grow professionally and excel in their careers. For new and experienced teachers alike, the NSTA community offers the opportunity to network with like-minded peers at the national level, connect with mentors and leading researchers, and learn from the best in the field.

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