When we take a step back and look at our communities, it’s easy to understand the importance of equity. When underserved students are provided with a high quality education and individualized support, they are significantly more likely to break generational cycles of school drop outs, poverty, trauma, and the school to prison pipeline. However, these social issues can easily become overwhelming; how can school leaders possibly endeavor to end such mammoth problems?
Let’s break down five bite sized, practical ways school leaders should prioritize equity in the 2019-2020 school year:
#1: List the sources you use to find high quality teachers.
Even if you live in a community where jobseekers outnumber open teaching positions, this is a useful exercise. After you make this list, ask yourself:
- Do I rely too heavily on my HR department to take the initiative in recruiting efforts?
- Do my recruiting sources favor candidates of a specific background, race, gender, or age group?
- With my current recruiting sources, how easily can I find candidates who speak different languages?
- Do my recruiting sources provide an adequate flow of candidates with special training in various developmental delays, learning disorders, and disabilities?
- How frequently do I interact with these recruiting sources? Should I spend more time networking?
#2: Set aside time to evaluate school data.
How often do you look at data measuring student achievement, teacher effectiveness, and trends in instructional strategy? Build time in your schedule to analyze this data on a regular basis so you can improve student experiences throughout the school year. The National Institute for Excellence in Teaching recommends you use this information to:
- Determine which teachers are the best match for students of various racial backgrounds, with special needs or abilities, who can’t speak English well, etc.
- Determine best practices for improving student achievement.
- Identify educators who could become leaders and coaches for other teachers.
- Decide which teachers should be involved in major decision making processes.
- Facilitate collaborative discussions among your faculty and staff.
#3: Learn about implicit biases which are negatively impacting your students.
Our actions and work are heavily influenced by implicit biases we may not even realize we have. You and your school’s educators should set aside an hour or so to take relevant implicit bias tests from Harvard University. These tests help you understand your automatic preferences toward various religious, racial, gender, and other personal identity groups. Once you and your team know your automatic preferences, you can reflect on the ways you may be unconsciously favoring certain staff members or students over others.
#4: Create a system for teachers and students to have a voice.
As Harvard’s implicit bias tests reveal, it’s easy for us to fail to see barriers to equity. In a truly equitable environment, teachers and students should have a safe way to report their concerns and ideas about how the school can better serve all student groups. Talk with your faculty to brainstorm ideas on how to best implement a feedback system at your school. Then inform your teachers and students about how they can report any disciplinary or instructional methods which they perceive to be unfair and inequitable. Be sure this system includes a process to evaluate feedback and implement needed changes.
#5: Invite an experienced mediator and consultant into the conversation.
Whenever people of different backgrounds are brought together, we can expect disagreements to arise. The topic of equity in particular can inspire deep passion, trigger memories of past offenses, and divide colleagues who share differing opinions.
When you bring in an experienced consultant from CSAS, this objective third party can help guide the conversation in a constructive direction. CSAS can also develop an action plan and provide ongoing coaching support to promote equitable instruction in your school. Schedule a free call to speak with a CSAS representative about the solutions we offer for schools seeking to create an equitable learning environment.