Schools are struggling to ensure that all students have what they need to be successful--here are some important components of academic equity and teamwork

As schools reckon with academic equity, they’re often focused on academic progress. During the edWebinar Leading for Equity: Academic Development Through an Equity Lens, hosted by AASA, The Superintendents Association and AASA’s Leadership Network, the presenters talked about the important role social-emotional learning (SEL) plays in the process. In fact, they argued that schools must connect academic equity with SEL if they’re going to reach their goal of serving all students.

Related content: How COVID put a spotlight on equity

Across the nation, district equity discussions include how schools must examine current biases from bus stops and classroom materials to educator and staff expectations. In Social, Emotional, and Academic Development Through an Equity Lens, from The Education Trust, researchers found most families of color don’t think schools are set up for their students to succeed.

Nancy Duchesneau, a Research Associate at The Education Trust, said that’s because current SEL models focus on competencies and reaching specific standards without thinking about individual students’ needs. This adds to a deficit-based mindset where the teachers are focused on fixing the students. Instead, said Duchesneau, educators and staff need to recognize cultural and contextual differences and how they impact students.

As schools reckon with academic equity, they’re often focused on academic progress. During the edWebinar “Leading for Equity: Academic Development Through an Equity Lens,” hosted by AASA, The Superintendents Association and AASA’s Leadership Network, the presenters talked about the important role social-emotional learning (SEL) plays in the process. In fact, they argued that schools must connect academic equity with SEL if they’re going to reach their goal of serving all students.

Across the nation, district equity discussions include how schools must examine current biases from bus stops and classroom materials to educator and staff expectations. In Social, Emotional, and Academic Development Through an Equity Lens, from The Education Trust, researchers found most families of color don’t think schools are set up for their students to succeed.

Nancy Duchesneau, a Research Associate at The Education Trust, said that’s because current SEL models focus on competencies and reaching specific standards without thinking about individual students’ needs. This adds to a deficit-based mindset where the teachers are focused on fixing the students. Instead, said Duchesneau, educators and staff need to recognize cultural and contextual differences and how they impact students.

Based on the research, the report’s authors have six policy and practice recommendations to get on a path to academic equity:

1. Provide meaningful professional development and supports in key areas like reducing bias and culturally sustaining pedagogy;
2. Engage parents, students, and communities as full partners so that leaders have reliable information about the school climate and school needs;
3. Diversify the educator workforce so that students from all backgrounds recognize themselves in teachers and staff, thus feeling more welcome in the school;
4. Ensure equitable access to and supports for success in rigorous and culturally sustaining coursework. In other words, all students should be using rigorous curricula that is free from stereotypes and negative reinforcement. SEL should be integrated into the materials;
5. Develop inclusive discipline and dress code policies. Discipline, for instance, should focus on restoring relationships; and
6. Provide access to integrated wraparound services and supports, which should include partnering with community officials like law enforcement and hospitals to ensure that students receive support wherever and whenever they need it.

One school district modeling this type of intentional equity is Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland. District Superintendent Dr. Jack R. Smith said when he came to Montgomery County, he noticed while many cohorts of students were achieving sustainable success, he couldn’t say all students were being set up for success.

Based on the district’s strategic plan and other work being done in the district, the leadership developed an equity and achievement framework based on three main principles.

● Evidence of learning: Dr. Smith said the key questions he asks are: “Are all students learning?” and “Are they learning enough?” The district is using multiple measures from the classroom to district level across internal and external categories to determine if students are college and career ready.
● Equity accountability model: Administration looked at the groups of students that were typically underperforming and asked how they know they are underperforming and why. Without the deeper details about these students, the district couldn’t develop an action plan to help them.
● Equitable access to resources: More than just culturally-appropriate rigorous curricula, district leaders also looked at how all staff, time, and money were being used to support all students. For Dr. Monifa McKnight, Deputy Superintendent, the key questions for every program are: Who has access to that program? Are we providing resources to make sure all students are successful in that program? Again, the resources need to support the students’ well-being as well as academics.
source: Read More, eSchool News

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