Unprecedented equity of voice insights surfaced for the first time in virtual classrooms
TeachFX, whose mission is promoting more meaningful and equitable classroom dialogue, announced the launch of Equitable Classrooms, a new, free product for schools and districts that measures the equity of voice in virtual classrooms.
Equitable Classrooms presents in clear and vivid visualizations how engaged every student and every subgroup is in virtual classes across a school or district.
According to education experts such as Stanford Professor Emerita Rachel Lotan — whose pioneering research has demonstrated the critical importance of student participation to achieving greater equity — the new Equitable Classrooms product has the potential to redefine how education leaders understand, address, and improve equity across classrooms in their school districts:
“I am excited about the technological advances that have made Equitable Classrooms possible because it means that we can examine — at scale — the root causes of the pressing equity challenges we face as educators: who is talking, who is engaging, and who is not?”
Five decades of research advanced by education experts like Lotan show that those students who participate more, learn more — that is, that students’ oral participation is a primary causal mechanism that drives student learning (Lotan, 2012; Holthuis, 2012; Michaels, 2008; Bianchini, 1997; Cohen, 1997; Leechor, 1989; Vygotsky, 1978).
In particular, the benefits of student talk in class are greatest for our most vulnerable students, such as English learners, students with disabilities, and students from low-income backgrounds (Ho, 2005). The equity implications of this are particularly important today: these are some of the same subgroups who have been disproportionately hurt by the transition to virtual classrooms.
With Equitable Classrooms, districts can see, in real time and across subjects and grade levels, which student subgroups are getting opportunities to speak and, hence, to learn.
The data Equitable Classrooms provides couldn’t come soon enough for many education leaders. The struggle to achieve equity in our schools has been a focus for educators and civil rights groups for generations, and during COVID, equity is a top concern for NEA’s members. The first districts to pilot Equitable Classrooms have expressed enthusiasm for its potential to spur lasting change. As Manuel Colón, the Chief Academic Officer of Anaheim Union High School District (AUHSD), puts it:
“Achieving greater equity has long been an aspiration of our district, but creating equitable learning environments for English learners, special ed students, and other subgroups remains a challenge, especially during COVID. Equitable Classrooms finally gets us to the root causes of these equity challenges: who is actually talking and engaging in class? We are incredibly excited about the visibility this product will give us into equity of voice in our district. It’s absolutely game-changing!”
TeachFX was founded in 2017 by Jamie Poskin, a high school math and English teacher, with the mission of promoting more equitable and engaging classrooms. The TeachFX app, launched in 2018, uses voice AI to provide teachers with targeted pedagogical feedback on elements of their teaching such as lesson design, talk ratio, and use of high leverage teaching strategies like open-ended questioning and think time.
Today, the TeachFX app is used by thousands of teachers around the world. The organization works closely with over 200 US schools, including partnerships with large, diverse districts such as AUHSD and Detroit Public Schools Community District.
“We’ve been working with TeachFX since 2018 and have been blown away by what their product has done for our teachers in creating a more reflective teaching practice and more engaging classrooms in our district,” says Colón. “When they showed us the new insights we could see with Equitable Classrooms, we had to have it right away.”
Equity has always been at the core of TeachFX’s mission, but using voice AI to provide the kind of unprecedented equity of voice analysis that Equitable Classrooms illuminates was still years away — until schools shifted into virtual learning environments.
“This transition to virtual learning this year has been incredibly challenging for teachers and students, particularly our most vulnerable kids,” says Poskin. “We also have a precious opportunity right now to understand equity of voice at scale for the very first time in history. We hope one small silver lining of this pandemic is that it allows us to address, in new ways, the persistent equity challenges we’ve faced as a country for centuries.”
Equitable Classrooms is awarding no-cost partnerships to a limited number of school districts for the 2020-2021 school year. Districts prioritizing equity of voice are being selected on a first-come, first served basis. Equitable Classrooms plans to announce its first school and district partners in early 2021.