Being bold and speaking out against educational inequity will require courageous conversations

While gaps in technology access were highlighted during the pandemic, many school and district leaders are trying to make strides with an even older issue: battling educational inequity for children of all races and economic backgrounds.

In the edWebinar “Leading for Equity: Pursuing an Equity Agenda,” Dr. Frank Barnes, Chief Equity and Accountability Officer, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), and Kimberly Vaught, Principal, Allenbrook Elementary School, discussed their approach to building equity.

Related content: How equity strategies improve student outcomes

The equity initiative for CMS is based on its report, Breaking the Link. Originally published in 2018, it discussed the historical basis for education disparities as well as data points that could reliably predict student success. In the 2019 report, the authors examined three “levers” that could break the predictive outcomes and lead to higher achievement for all students: great teachers, time (instructional hours), and access to advanced coursework.

However, in order for the district to succeed, they first had to gather data and have what Dr. Barnes called courageous conversations.

Understand the history of educational inequity in your state and district. Dr. Barnes observed that administrators can’t begin to address inequity if they don’t understand the causes. On a national level, for instance, the Coleman Report (1966) found achievement gaps were based in racist policies and systemic inequity that had persisted for decades. But more important to Dr. Barnes, not a single member of the Carolinian delegation voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In other words, historically, elected officials then didn’t want to address educational inequity and didn’t offer schools support in his district. Thus, some of those disparities exist in the schools today.

While gaps in technology access were highlighted during the pandemic, many school and district leaders are trying to make strides with an even older issue: educational equity for children of all races and economic backgrounds.

In the edWebinar “Leading for Equity: Pursuing an Equity Agenda,” Dr. Frank Barnes, Chief Equity and Accountability Officer, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS), and Kimberly Vaught, Principal, Allenbrook Elementary School, discussed their approach to building equity.

Related content: How equity strategies improve student outcomes

The equity initiative for CMS is based on its report, Breaking the Link. Originally published in 2018, it discussed the historical basis for education disparities as well as data points that could reliably predict student success. In the 2019 report, the authors examined three “levers” that could break the predictive outcomes and lead to higher achievement for all students: great teachers, time (instructional hours), and access to advanced coursework.

However, in order for the district to succeed, they first had to gather data and have what Dr. Barnes called courageous conversations.

● Understand the history of educational inequity in your state and district. Dr. Barnes observed that administrators can’t begin to address inequity if they don’t understand the causes. On a national level, for instance, the Coleman Report (1966) found achievement gaps were based in racist policies and systemic inequity that had persisted for decades. But more important to Dr. Barnes, not a single member of the Carolinian delegation voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In other words, historically, elected officials then didn’t want to address educational inequity and didn’t offer schools support in his district. Thus, some of those disparities exist in the schools today.

● Get good data on what progress has and hasn’t been made. Similarly, leaders need a variety of data points to show where instances of educational inequity are now. In his district, poverty has become a great predictor of performance. Recent data shows students in low-poverty schools outperform peers in moderate- and high-poverty schools. A deeper dive into the data also reveals students of color are still being outperformed by their white peers no matter the poverty concentration. So, while the district has made progress in closing the achievement gap, cross-examination of the results shows that the schools haven’t come as far as they would like.
● Get honest assessments of teacher practices. In a survey, 97 percent of the CMS teachers who responded said they thought they were teaching to the North Carolina education standards. Classroom observations showed, though, that only 24 percent were actually doing that. Rather than just making judgment on teaching skills, Vaught said administrators need to have fact-based conversations with faculty, explain what they’re doing that isn’t meeting the standards, and help them learn what to do.
● Communicate high expectations for everyone involved—teachers, staff, students, families, and community members. Vaught pointed out there is still racism in classrooms. Sometimes, there are low expectations for children of color, but sometimes, it’s just low expectations for all students. Be candid with teachers about what changes they need to take to break the cycle of expectations, she commented. Moreover, there shouldn’t just be expectations for student performance—leaders should also have high expectations for their teachers’ beliefs in the agenda, their actions to support it, and their commitment to it. Dr. Barnes added if students get access to great, appropriate teaching, they benefit, but that those that are behind grade level benefit the most.
● Speak the truth to all members of the community. Whether it’s parents, teachers, or the local news, always share the honest data about educational disparities, said Vaught. Rather than trying to cover anything up, schools should be open about where they are; then, they can have conversations about how they’re addressing educational inequity and ask for support.
source: Read More, eSchool News

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