Equity New Year to You!

Happy 2019 y’all!  The new year represents a moment to examine ourselves and our practices – personally and professionally, individually and collectively.  As educators working to create the best possible learning environments for ALL students, the turn of the year provides an important opportunity to consider how we create equity in our schools.

Skills learned through social and emotional learning support positive student outcomes and district equity initiatives. Check out the AIR researcher Jameela Conway-Turner discussing the link between social and emotional learning and equity:

How are we growing our capacity for equity work locally?

In recent years, our diverse district has deepened its commitment to intentional equity work in our schools, and examining and disrupting systems that perpetuate inequity, specifically racism, and the oppression of marginalized populations.  Our cultural proficiency and inclusiveness department, run by Angela Ward, Administrative Supervisor of Race and Equity, recently received a major Educational Innovation and Research (EIR) Grant to implement culturally responsive restorative practices in 10 schools.  This grant, from the US Department of Education, seeks to examine how our district’s commitment to restorative practices impacts glaring inequity in disciplinary actions and academic performance in schools.

From the AISD press release:

“With the restorative process, we’re aiming to build a positive classroom and school environment that helps students cultivate a high level of belonging and trust to engage with peers and adults in the school,” said Angela Ward, Administrative Supervisor of Race & Equity.

“The grant aims to lessen the use of suspensions and expulsions and their disproportionate impact on students with disabilities and students of color. Restorative practices build upon the district’s ongoing efforts to address equitable outcomes for our diverse student body,” said Michelle Wallis, Executive Director of Innovation and Development.

The 10 campuses participating in this grant have a dedicated Restorative Practice Associate based on-site, whose job is to work with campus leaders and staff to build a restorative culture rooted in each school’s unique environment and needs. This intentional focus on building culturally-responsive, restorative schools that cultivate positive relationships between all the members of the educational community will profoundly affect behavior and academic outcomes.

Walking the Talk

Educators and school leaders in our district have increasing opportunities to engage with professional development around educational equity, anti-racism work and cultural proficiency. In recent years, three CP&I cohorts have been held in which participants engage in personal and collective work on cultural proficiency. These cohorts continue to work on building professional learning experiences for colleagues to deepen understanding around the importance of culturally-responsive, anti-racist teaching and learning.  New teachers and teachers new to our district receive intentional cultural proficiency professional development as part of our August on-boarding process, and many campuses have participated in book studies of Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond, a profoundly influential figure in our district’s ongoing work.

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Keep it up!

There is so much work to be done! We continue to move forward together as a district, as an educational community, and as a part of a growing, crucial national conversation around disrupting inequitable and oppressive systems and practices in public schools.  Ready for more? Check out these resources!

American Institute for Research Equity Project

US Department of Education Equity of Opportunity

Center for Public Education article: Educational Equity: What Does it Mean, and How Do We Know When We Reach It?

Educational Equity Resources from EduTopia

Civil Rights in Education Database: look up any school to see discipline and academic data!

EdWeek Article on the relationship between SEL and educational equity/anti-racism work

Greater Good Berkeley article on SEL skills needed to discuss race in the classroom

How will you disrupt oppressive systems and move educational equity work forward in your sphere of influence in 2019? Let us know in the comments, and tag us on social media: @austinisdsel!

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