Establish a shared and clearly articulated belief of what an equitable system looks and feels like.
Like most things in life, you are more likely to hit the mark if you aim. So, what is it that you want to achieve? What would you see in an equitable system? What impact would you hope to have on students? Remembering the foundational premises that educational equity is a process and requires collaboration, your vision should be developed with meaningful and representative participation from the communities you serve in addition to other stakeholders.
Create purposeful and ongoing opportunities to gain insights, develop awareness and increase understanding about the experiences of those impacted by the education system.
As we look at the students and communities we serve, we are often presented with facts: test scores, poverty levels, race/ ethnicity, gender, language, etc. This is a good first step towards understanding, but do these facts really provide us with all we need to make the best decisions possible on behalf of students? The Understanding component challenges us to go beyond data points and demographics and really get to know the communities we serve.
Take Intentional and measurable steps to move the system towards the vision.
Each component calls on district leaders to work with their communities and staff to identify the strengths, challenges and opportunities of the district when it comes to educational equity. Based on this work, some initial goals should start to emerge. What needs to happen? Who will get it done? What resources are needed? When will it happen? Now is the time to commit resources (people, time, dollars) to a specific plan of action with clear goals and benchmarks for success. These will be your commitments to your community. If your plan is not clear as to what specific actions will be taken, go back and clarify. From administrators to front desk staff, community leaders to students, everyone should know the plan and what their role is in its execution. Equity is everyone’s responsibility.
Remove barriers and actively and routinely seek out representative voices to share in the decision-making process.
While educators and administrators know engagement is beneficial (and required, in some circumstances, by law under ESSA and Title I), most struggle to achieve the level of engagement they desire. Component 3 calls on districts to overcome barriers through active and consistent efforts to create an environment that demonstrates their desire to include all voices. This happens when districts practice cultural awareness, agility and humility in order to build authentic engagement. Authentic engagement is where students, families and communities take an active and collaborative role in tackling the challenges facing them. Again, educational equity is not something we gift our communities, it is something we build with them.
Ongoing, honest, transparent review of progress with feedback from those impacted by the system.
Once districts have worked with their communities to determine their course of action and they have communicated their goals and commitment to educational equity, they must demonstrate their progress in a way that is transparent to the communities directly impacted by the school system. Can the people you’ve made commitments to gauge whether those commitments have been met and to what extent? How you assess your progress and demonstrate ongoing commitment can have a big impact on the way in which your community views the district and its equity efforts, so take care. Be consistent, be honest and stay committed. This is a journey, not a sprint.