A superintendent offers insight on tackling not only academic performance gaps, but also equity challenges such as racial disparities and long-term outcomes for students of color

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed historic equity gaps that have long plagued our schools and society. Schools have always served as a hub of support and aid to children, their families, and communities. At our district, the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch And while Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), like districts nationwide, has focused on COVID emergency responses to ensure that students get the social, emotional, and academic supports that they need, we recognize that as our students return to the classrooms, they are returning to a different world.

In the wake of this unrest and the political tensions, our teachers must be prepared to have some difficult conversations. A key piece to these discussions and, ultimately, closing the inequity gaps is to look at the long-term, root causes of inequities and provide all adults who work with students the opportunities to learn how to address, discuss and examine implicit bias as a community.

Related content: How COVID put a spotlight on equity

Even in the midst of the pandemic, the foundational framework that successfully continues to bridge the equity divide at BCPS is our work with Public Consulting Group’s (PCG) Courageous Conversations about Race online program, developed in partnership with renowned equity expert Glenn Singleton that provides the tools to engage in difficult discussions in productive and safe ways that systemically shifts our district’s culture. To date we have trained over 1,200 educators, school staff and community stakeholders and continue to scale and expand our equity initiatives.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed historic inequities that have long-plagued our schools and society. Schools have always served as a hub of support and aid to children, their families, and communities. At our district, the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch And while Broward County Public Schools (BCPS), like districts nationwide, have focused on COVID emergency responses to ensure that students get the social, emotional, and academic supports that they need, we recognize that as our students return to the classrooms, they are returning to a different world.

In the wake of this unrest and the political tensions, our teachers must be prepared to have some difficult conversations. A key piece to these discussions and, ultimately, closing the inequity gaps is to look at the long-term, root causes of inequities and provide all adults who work with students the opportunities to learn how to address, discuss and examine implicit bias as a community.

Related content: How COVID put a spotlight on equity

Even in the midst of the pandemic, the foundational framework that successfully continues to bridge the equity divide at BCPS is our work with Public Consulting Group’s (PCG) Courageous Conversations about Race online program, developed in partnership with renowned equity expert Glenn Singleton that provides the tools to engage in difficult discussions in productive and safe ways that systemically shifts our district’s culture. To date we have trained over 1,200 educators, school staff and community stakeholders and continue to scale and expand our equity initiatives.

When I became superintendent of Broward County, Florida in 2011, I faced more than academic challenges. Our district serves an extremely diverse population of over 275,000 public and public charter school students, representing over 200 countries and over 190 languages. Yet, it was immediately clear that the diversity of our student population was not reflective of our teaching staff, which created challenges for students and educators.

With this, I saw an opportunity to do more than just tackle our academic performance gaps, but address the racial disparities and long-term outcomes for students of color and take on the challenge of improving equity. Every student has their own story – their own successes, their own challenges, and their own way of responding. And if we truly want and expect our students to excel, we need to be able to not only teach academics, but to understand our students’ stories and how those narratives play out at home and in our classrooms.

In 2018, BCPS partnered with Public Consulting Group to tackle those inequities by training our teachers and school staff to understand not only their students’ stories, but their own. Through workshops, training, and building our teachers to serve as Equity Liaisons to champion the work in their own schools, we got necessarily uncomfortable. We challenged ourselves to uncover our own implicit biases in service to our students. We continued to host these critical conversations online when COVID hit even though our school buildings were closed.

I’ve heard time and time again from our teachers and staff that anyone who works with students needs this training.

That’s why I’m rounding up the key variables needed for district leaders to advance their own Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives, including:

1. Let your data speak. See where your academic gaps are, but also look for other signs of inequality, whether in behavioral citations or absences.
source: Read More, eSchool News

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