JPEF is proud to support Title I elementary school principals to deepen their impact for students.
Last month, we welcomed our 12 School Leadership Fellows in our very first virtual training session.
Led by our School Leadership Consultant, Dr. Rebecca Parrott, the discussion focused on continuous school improvement, with equity at the center.
As part of JPEF’s work to close the opportunity gap in Duval County, equity is a topic that we’ll revisit throughout the fellowship experience. Our goal is to better serve the low-income students and students of color who haven’t had the same opportunities to learn and succeed as their peers.
What is educational inequity?
Educational inequity is unfair treatment, unequal opportunity, or unequal access to information and resources in the education system. We also know this problem as the opportunity gap. For example:
Peer-reviewed research shows that unintentional discrimination, known as implicit bias, can lead black boys as young as 4 years old to face harsher discipline than white children. In Duval County, 44 percent of students in public schools are black, yet they make up 73 percent of out-of-school suspensions (Florida Department of Education, 2018-2019 data).
Research has shown that representation in the teaching workforce has an impact on students. In one study, Black boys were 29 percent less likely to drop out of high school when they had at least one Black teacher in elementary school.* In Duval County, which mirrors national trends, students of color represent 66 percent of learners, while teachers of color represent only 32 percent of instructors (FLDOE, 2018-2019).
In Duval County, 85 percent of Black students graduated high school on-time in 2018-2019, compared to 94 percent of white students (FLDOE, 2018-2019).
Title I elementary schools, which have a larger proportion of students living in poverty, are less likely to have ‘A’ or ‘B’ grades in Duval County: 92 percent of non-Title I elementary schools vs 40 percent of Title I elementary schools (FLDOE, 2018-2019), as illustrated below.
We know our educators in Title I schools know these data better than anyone, and they’re working diligently to serve our students. That’s why JPEF believes in empowering them to address these gaps through evidence-based practices.
What is continuous improvement, and how can it help close the opportunity gap?
Continuous improvement is an approach that can help schools drive results for students. It relies on collecting data over time as educators try out best practices at a small scale, identifying the practices showing the best results, and then bringing those successful practices to scale.
JPEF’s work is also inspired by continuous improvement: our role in Duval County is to test out innovative, evidence-based practices that hold promise for improving outcomes in schools. Then, we collect data to find the most successful practices and work with partners to bring them to scale across the district. As we learn, we adjust our approach to build upon lessons learned and what works to support school leaders and teacher leaders.
How are you refilling your cup?
We know this has been a truly challenging year for educators.
So while the principal fellows received important training and tools during their first session, it was just as important to connect and build community. All educators need a way to refill their cup, since they are pouring so much into our children.
Think for a moment: What do you remember about your elementary school? What was it like? Do you remember your teachers? The community around the school?
Dr. Parrott asked fellows to reflect on these questions together.
As the principals shared their memories, a theme emerged -- the climate and culture of the school, the surrounding neighborhood, and the relationships with adults at the school were critical to developing these principals into the people they are today. In some way or another, they all said that having adults in the community who really cared for them and other children was huge. It was an important reminder of their personal missions today, to provide that to all of the children in the schools they now lead.
One principal told a story about her father, who never had the opportunity to learn to read and write as a child. She, too, struggled with reading at school. But with the help of teachers and the school community, she and her father learned to read together.
That principal certainly would not be where she is today without the community feel of her school and their support for herself and her father.
As one principal put it, “making a school a ‘community school’ is such a powerful legacy.”
“Feeling connected to your school is critical. When you all are talking about your experiences, I hear you saying that the school knew your family. Connections are so powerful.”
While each principal had a different experience as an elementary school student, they all highlighted how important the community was.
Through this session, the principals got to build connections and community between themselves, which is not only crucial for their students, but is crucial for themselves as they navigate this work to make their school more equitable.