Exploring how to best support all students, no matter their background.
By Rebecca Parrott, PhD, JPEF School Leadership Consultant
This fall, twelve Title 1 elementary school leaders in Duval County were selected for the JPEF School Leadership Initiative Fellowship and convened for their first virtual professional learning session in October. During the session, fellows reacted to a report on equity and continuous improvement from WestEd and discussed how continuous improvement is being used to address persistent inequities that impact students of color and other underserved student groups.
Educational inequity was characterized as unfair treatment, unequal opportunity, an unequal access to information and resources in the education system.
What does it mean to lead with an equity lens?
The twelve fellows along with leadership coaches discussed what it means to lead with an equity lens. The SLI fellows agreed that addressing educational inequity requires school leaders to allocate time for their school leadership team to reflect upon and investigate changes occurring in their schools related to their priority areas.
School leaders who were selected as fellows applied this summer to focus on one of four tracks aligned with their school improvement plans. Fellows received $10,000 grants to support innovation in their schools along with ongoing training and leadership coaching. The first training supported fellows with developing their “equity lens” as they lead school improvement efforts and document changes in stakeholder interactions, processes, materials use, professional learning, and school norms.
Five promising equity practices that have been used by education systems nationally to support continuous improvement were explored.
Five practices for equity
The five practices include disaggregating data, conducting equity audits, leading empathy exercises, incorporating an equity pause into problem solving meetings or professional learning sessions, and including underserved voices into continuous improvement work. The equity practice that was identified by school leader fellows as being used consistently at the school level is disaggregating student outcome data by student groups. Disaggregating student data has been shown to serve as a great starting point for investigating and analyzing the root causes of inequities in a school system.
One of the outcomes of the 3-year fellowship is for school leaders to become more comfortable having equity conversations with their staff, and learn protocols for conducting equity audits to gather relevant information regarding programmatic equity (special education bilingual education, gifted, and student discipline) achievement equity (state achievement/learning gains, kindergarten readiness, drop-out rates, graduation rates) and teacher quality equity (teacher education, mobility, and experience). Equity audits are systematic ways for school leaders, superintendents, curriculum directors, teacher leaders and resource specialists to assess the degree of equity or inequity present in their schools or districts to inform continuous improvement efforts.
Equity audits have the potential to disrupt deficit views regarding students, families, and communities, especially when underserved voices are included in the data analysis and problem-solving process that follows. JPEF and Duval County leaders are excited about the school leadership initiative and look forward to learning of innovative approaches to address teacher retention, family and community engagement, school climate and culture, as well as leadership and management.