Fair is Not Always Equal: How to Teach Students about Inclusion and Accommodations

When it comes to education, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Every child learns differently, with varying strengths and weaknesses. Teachers and education professionals work hard to integrate the various needs of their students into a unified approach. But sometimes, teachers must tailor solutions to a child’s individual needs.

Accommodations of this sort might include extra time on tests, assistive technology, or condensed assignments. However, sometimes the concept of accommodations can be difficult to process, especially for children.

In her experience as Director of Exceptional Children in a South Carolina school district, Pam Brogdon often encountered many teachers who weren’t sure how to explain accommodations to their students. “How do I explain this child being allowed to use a calculator to my other students when they cannot use one?” teachers would ask.

Ms. Brogdon’s answer is simple: “Equal” is different from “fair.” She often uses the example of eyeglasses to explain. Rather than being an “unfair” advantage, they allow everyone to have equal vision.

In the same way, students who receive accommodations are not receiving an unfair advantage. They are simply being given the tools to learn and perform at the same level as their classmates. Accommodations are actually an equalizing tool.

To read Ms. Brogdon’s other suggestions about integrating accommodations in the classroom, click here.