BUILD A STRATEGIC PLAN AROUND EDUCATIONAL EQUITY
Schools, organizations and our communities are rapidly becoming more diverse. However, there are still blatant inequities throughout society holding some students back from success. Students come from a variety of backgrounds. Unfortunately, our schools have not always provided equitable access to opportunities for learning and success. Moving forward, it’s critical to build a plan that prioritizes equity in education.
District leaders in Austin Independent School District (AISD) understand the importance of equity in education. In 2019-2020, the AISD Office of Equity engaged community members to identify how to achieve equity in its education system. As a result, key priorities were identified and integrated into the district’s five-year strategic plan. Equity was not just a consideration. Equity is foundational to the overall plan and embedded in almost every strategy the district commits to.
WORKING TOWARDS EQUITY IN SCHOOLS
The National Equity Project describes three key priorities to establish more equity in education:
- Ensure equally high outcomes for all participants in our educational system by removing the predictability of success or failure that currently correlates with any social or cultural factor.
- Disrupt inequitable practices, examine biases and create inclusive multicultural school environments for adults and children.
- Discover and cultivate the unique gifts, talents and interests that every human possesses.
To get all leaders on board, AISD relied on research to help leaders understand that equity is not a zero-sum game. When we help the most vulnerable everyone benefits. As described in The Curb-Cut Effect, systems designed to benefit marginalized groups often end up benefiting all of society:
There’s an ingrained societal suspicion that intentionally supporting one group hurts another. That equity is a zero-sum game. In fact, when the nation targets support where it is needed most—when we create the circumstances that allow those who have been left behind to participate and contribute fully—everyone wins. The corollary is also true. When we ignore the challenges faced by the most vulnerable among us, those challenges, magnified many times over, become a drag on economic growth, prosperity and national well-being.
– Angela Glover Blackwell
MAKING DECISIONS WITH AN EQUITY FOCUS
AISD leaders have carefully designed a plan to embed equity in education, including in their own decision-making process. This is an example of one of the tools this team uses for equity policy development and planning:
HOW TO PLAN FOR EQUITY IN EDUCATION
Educational equity in AISD means that each child receives what they need to develop to their full academic and social potential. As district leaders prepared to develop a new strategic plan, the AISD Equity office began collecting data. Using the following nine steps, AISD developed an equity action plan.
- Identify underserved and marginalized groups. Examples include students of color, students with disabilities and students who aren’t native English language speakers.
- Listen to the voice of the adversely affected.
- Conduct root cause analysis with community members.
- Prepare an environmental scan and asset mapping with community members.
- Research promising equity in education practices and industry exemplars.
- Establish the same robust realistic measurable goals over time for all student groups.
- Adapt or develop research-based strategies and tactics with underserved communities to increase equity in education.
- Draft strategic equity in education implementation plan and evaluation.
- Integrate and align appropriate equity tactics into the district strategic plan and action plans.
11 STRATEGIES TO ACHIEVE EQUITY IN EDUCATION
The above process allowed the team to devise 11 strategies aligned to the strategic plan to achieve equity in education. Most importantly, AISD sought a tremendous amount of feedback from their community and established an Equity Advisory Committee to continue this pursuit. As a district, leaders hope to use the following 11 strategies to solve these critical problems:
- The system has been failing to meet the social-emotional needs of historically underserved students for decades. This is because of systemic racism and discrimination in funding, hiring, teacher support and development and curricular offerings.
- Discrimination and favoritism in the district have resulted in segregated schools that follow the pattern of city segregation, dispossession and displacement. This stifles the opportunities for students to learn in environments that attract highly qualified and culturally proficient staff.
Culture and Climate
1. Ensure social, emotional, mental, identity and physical safety and wellness are the foundations for learning in our schools.
2. Improve systems for students who receive special education, dyslexia and bilingual services to ensure high expectations and high outcomes for every child.
3. Expand access to enrichment opportunities for students from marginalized communities.
4. Build a culture of respect and inclusion by increasing the diversity of our teaching staff to reflect the racial diversity of the students we serve and fostering growth and well-being for all employees.
5. Implement consistent and culturally relevant instruction that is rigorous and rooted in relationships and the community for every child, every day.
6. Serve more young learners from marginalized communities in effective early childhood instruction in AISD.
7. Improve access to quality college and career programs for students from marginalized communities, including connections with higher education institutions and industry partners, and prepare every student with the knowledge and skills to thrive.
8. Prioritize improvement of program opportunities, communication and facility planning for campuses in marginalized communities.
Reflective and Inspirational Leadership
9. Provide teachers and principals with ongoing coaching to foster reflection, analyze disaggregated student data and continuously improve culturally responsive, rigorous and relationship-centered instruction.
10. Engage employees and invite their collaboration to define and deliver “best in class” internal customer service in support of student outcomes.
11. Build trusting relationships with our families and community by engaging with them to listen and improve AISD environments, processes and experiences.
This leadership team boldly harnesses the desire to improve outcomes for all students into a workable plan that meets the needs of every student. Hear more about the bold journey towards equity in education and other thought-provoking stories at our virtual annual leadership conference, What’s Right in Education on October 27-28, 2021.