A framework for educational equity and culturally responsive pedagogy
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A framework for educational equity and culturally responsive pedagogy


Hello everyone and thank you for attending
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access today’s event. Now I’d like to introduce Amy Johnson. Amy, you now have the floor. Amy Johnson: Thanks, Brian, and thank you
all for joining us for today’s webinar, a Framework for Educational Equity and Culturally
Responsive Pedagogy. The webinar is sponsored by the U.S. Department
of Education’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Lab. I’m Amy Johnson from Mathematica Policy
Research which leads the work for the Regional Educational Lab. This is the first webinar in a four-part series. Our goal for the series is that it will prompt
audience members, either individually or ideally with a team of colleagues, to put what you
hear into action. We think of this four-part webinar series
as a workshop that will provide you with valuable guidance on how to create more equitable education
environments that include culturally responsive practices. Before I introduce today’s speaker, I want
to point audience members to an action plan that you all should’ve received electronically
via email. It’s also available in the Resource List
widget that Brian just mentioned. The action plan is intended to be a starting
point for the critical conversations and strategic planning that we hope each of you and your
colleagues will begin in working towards culturally responsive practices. Feel free to jot down thoughts, ideas or questions
related to the prompts and the action plan throughout the webinar. But most of all, please take this with you
after today’s session is over and take action. Please do something with the information you
hear today. Our speaker today is Dr. Heather Bennett,
the Director of Equity Services for the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. Thank you, Heather, for joining us and I’m
going to turn it over to you now. Heather Bennett: Awesome. Thank you so much and it’s great to be here. I’m very excited to help launch this awesome
webinar series on culturally responsive pedagogy today, and so let’s get started. We’re going to move to the next slide. The purpose of this workshop is to provide
a framework for a culturally responsive pedagogy and that requires a discussion on equity to
help situate CRP as a necessary strategy to move towards equity in our districts and community. So we’re going to talk a little about six
questions in this workshop today. One, what is educational equity? Two, why is equity important? Three, what does equity charge educators to
do? Four, what is culturally responsive pedagogy? Five, how does culturally responsive pedagogy
relate to efforts to achieve educational equity? And six, what does successful implementation
of culturally responsive pedagogy suggest about the needs for broader systemic change? So I’ll start off with the first question,
what is educational equity? So at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association,
we define equity as the just and fair distribution of resources based upon each individual student’s
needs. Equitable resources include funding, programs,
policies, initiatives and supports that target each student’s unique background and school
context to guarantee that all students have equal access to a high-quality education. So I want to couch this to say that it is
essential that each district define equity for themselves, especially to their context. And with that definition also explain why
equity is important for your district and community. Having a clear definition of equity that is
shared, understood and practiced by the district and community is the foundation for comprehensive
and consistent practice of equity. Without setting a definition there could be
a lot of confusion, right? We can’t assume that every stakeholder in
our district knows what equity is. And so having a shared definition of equity
is so important. Equity I think stands in the gap between what
we know about providing a high-quality education for students and its benefits and what we
do and have done to students. What we know is that access to high quality
educational experiences increases positive economic, political and social life outcomes
for all students. But unfortunately, what we do is that children
are receiving inequitable educational experiences and opportunities, often determined by various
factors, such as zip code, socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation,
gender identity, language ability, immigrant status, disability, access to technology and
multiple other factors, right? So what causes these divergent educational
experiences? One, inequitable funding and resources. Two, let’s think about discriminatory and
biased practices and policies that have limited the opportunities of groups of people. And so I list a couple of systems down – housing,
employment, economics, health care, criminal justice system, education. There are a lot of other systems in place
but when we think about these systems, it involves a pattern of practice, policy or
class, where the alleged discrimination has a broad impact on industry professions, company
or geographic area. When we’re talking about systemic discrimination
we’re not just talking about education. Because all of these other systems have a
huge impact on how our students come to our schools and also the issues that they’re
dealing with on a daily, day-to-day basis. And these generational impacts of these systemic
discrimination has a huge impact on providing an education for all students. And then three, problems in acknowledging
and addressing our students’ unique differences, identities, cultures, histories, abilities
and experiences. Our kids are coming into our districts and
they’re different, and they are dealing with multiple different things. And so we have to really think about and really
talk to – speak to addressing those individual unique needs of our students. So let’s go into this wonderful visual of
equity. Now there are so many visuals of equity out
there, but I like this one the most because it shows the reality of what an inequitable
education system can do to a child. Let’s start off with equality. Pretty much we know an equal system says that
we give all students the same supports, right? But in reality, if we go to the third picture,
our students are different. They come to our classrooms with unique gifts,
individualized learning styles, different experience and cultural identities. I talked about that a second ago, and I think
that this is a visual of what we have done to students, really. We have never treated our families and students
equally nor have we respected our students’ differences. A significant number of our students carry
the weight of poverty, racism, sexism, trauma and other forms of prejudices and conditions
that affect how they perform in school. Our kids are not starting from the same starting
point. Some kids are privileged to not only see above
the fence but to perceive the fence. And then there are kids who are starting below
the ground. Equity recognizes that we have not treated
students equally and that in order to see the game, might as well play in the game,
we have to give students what they need, right? So, again, I love visuals – our job as educators
is to make sure that children get across that finish line. Whatever that means for that child. Not everyone is like a Usain Bolt and can
run across the finish line in a world record time. Some people require support; some need racing
chairs, prosthesis, running guide for the visually impaired, some need to walk. But the whole point is knowing that each and
every one of our children can cross that finish line and that we need to provide them with
the supports to be able to do so effectively. So now I’m going to talk about the characteristics
of what equity is. Equity is inclusive, it is fair and it is
just. Equity is inclusive, meaning that it expends
values and incorporates experiences in voices of all populations within that framework,
climate and procedures of systems and institutions. Equity is fair. People are given what they need to participate
fully in the system, and equity is just. It remedies past and present harms by the
system that have created the inequities. So let’s talk about the second question,
why is equitable – why is equity important? I’m going to discuss three different reasons
for why our districts and communities need to practice equity. However, I also want to ask that you all determine
your own personal why equity, or why equity is what keeps us motivated and helps us, keeps
us sustaining in this work even when it’s hard, right? So these three reasons here, demographic shifts,
achievement and opportunity gaps and policy shifts. And just a quick caveat before I move on,
I’m using Pennsylvania as an example because I work in Pennsylvania. But these trends that we’re seeing in Pennsylvania
are seen throughout the rest of the Mid-Atlantic region. And maybe these trends are even more stark
in your own particular state and locality. So let’s start off with demographic shifts
real quick. The Mid-Atlantic region is educating a rapidly
changing student body that is racially, culturally, linguistically and economically diverse. And just beginning with the economic diversity,
just focusing on our income inequality. This is a graph of earned income growth for
full-time wage and salary workers in Pennsylvania from 1980 to 2015. This graph is coming from the National Equity
Atlas, which is a USC subsidiary organization, data organization. As you can see, the income inequality between
the rich and poor is growing in the U.S. and specifically in Pennsylvania. And according to this National Equity Atlas,
since 1980 income for workers at the bottom and middle percentiles have decreased while
those at the top have increased. And so this income inequality that we’re
seeing in our states and in our districts has a huge implication to who we are now educating
in our classrooms. We are educating a growing student body that
is dealing with the impacts of poverty. In Pennsylvania, our child poverty rates have
risen. In 1999, there was 15 percent. In 2017, that is now at 19 percent. And what you’re seeing is a map of our 500
school districts in Pennsylvania. And so what I really want to say here is that
poverty is found in every district and it is not exclusive to urban or rural districts. We have about 36 percent of our suburban districts
have high poverty levels. And also, it’s important to note that even
though issues of poverty impact every school district in Pennsylvania, mapping poverty
rates across 500 school districts highlights extreme economic disparities between districts. So it’s extremely important to think about
this as also talking about income inequality within our own space but also recognizing
and acknowledging that between – the income inequality between districts is also prevalent
and also important to note. So let’s move onto racial transformation
in our state. This is a map of Pennsylvania from 1990 to
2017. As you can see, demographic shifts have changed
our districts racially. In 1990, the percent of students of color
stood at 18 percent, in 2017 the percent of students of color stood at around 31 percent. And in 2018 the percent of students of color
stands at 34 percent. So it is growing in our state, and we see
most of the transformation in our Latino nation student population. So I kind of want to talk about this for a
quick second. We have to understand that our suburban and
even our rural spaces are no longer homogenized enclaves. They have diversified rapidly and therefore
the cultural narratives in these areas have also shifted. We cannot hold on to the narrative perspectives
and beliefs of what used to be, or what your students used to be, and we have – we must
work towards developing an education practice for who your students are today. And I feel like that is the exciting work
of an educator. And what happens – and there’s some detrimental
things that happen when we do not focus on developing education that meets the students
of our – that meets the needs of our students. So we’re going to now shift and go into
the next phase of this why equity and focus on achievement and opportunity gaps. So quickly, let’s just talk about the achievement
gap real quick. Achievement gaps mean the academic disparities
and/or differences between groups of students, as indicated through variances in academic
indicators such as test scores, GPA, graduation rates and post-secondary access. There’s probably other factors and indicators
that we can measure the achievement gap in as well. But I’m just going to focus right now on
our high school graduation rates. So this is from the 2016-17 school year. And as you can see, 87 percent of all Pennsylvania
students graduate from high school. But if we really break that down and think
about it from race, from language ability, to – and also poverty levels, you’re seeing
a completely different story. For the most part let’s talk about – let’s
break it down by race. White and Asian students predominately 91
to 92 percent graduate from high school respectively. But our black and Latino populations, 74 percent,
only 74 percent graduate. Look at our special education, 74 percent
of our special education students graduated that year. If you look at our English language students,
those that do not identify as English language, 87 percent of them graduated. But only 63 percent of English language students
graduated that year. Students attending a low poverty school district,
95 percent graduated. Students attending a high poverty school district,
78 percent. Students in districts with less than 20 percent
of students of color, 91 – 92 percent graduated. In a district with a high students of color
population, 76 percent. And if we break it down by rural, suburban
and urban, what we see is our rural and suburban school districts, they graduate students at
like 92 percent, or urban school districts at 75 percent. And I really want to really talk about this,
because if I stopped right there, we would have a problem. We wouldn’t get to the purpose and the point
of figuring out how we can educate our children effectively, because there’s a lot of problems
with the achievement gap. Here’s the main problem: achievement gaps
merely measure outcomes but does not explain why these disparities exist. By focusing only on the achievement gap, we
come to believe that children who do not perform as well are unable to perform. Therefore, we legitimize stereotypes, labels
and then we place the blame of the lack of achievement on students and families, and
we never address the system that is tasked with educating our students. Remember when I said earlier that equity stands
in a gap of what we know about providing a high-quality education to students and what
we actually do? We know that all children are capable of learning
but not all children have had the same access to opportunities. For generations our education, political and
economic systems have provided less opportunities for low income students, students of color,
English learner students, students with disabilities and students in resource poor and geographically
isolated districts. So therefore, it’s essential – it’s
important to focus on the opportunity gap, and opportunity gaps mean the disparities
in educational and extra-curricular delivery of opportunities, resources and funding between
and among different student groups, leading to different academic, extra-curricular, social
and economic outcomes for students. And so opportunity gaps create achievement
gaps. We cannot focus only on the achievement gap,
it doesn’t tell the story. We have to focus on opportunity gaps, because
it addresses how the education system – and when I say the education system I’m meaning
teachers, administrators, staff, solicitors, school boards, communities and politicians,
how they have delivered and delivered education, policies and practices to different groups
of students. So where can we observe opportunity gaps in
education? Pretty much everywhere. And I’ll just list a few here, early childhood
education, school segregation, transportation, career and technical education, extra-curricular
opportunities. It impacts certain environmental factors. Do our children have access to clean water? Do – are our children being educated in
buildings with lead paint still in the air? Are they obtaining adequate housing? If they have access to healthcare, they have
access to glasses, okay? Communication to families and communities
are extremely important. So where we can observe opportunity gaps for
education, it is everywhere, and I really am excited to hear and learn more about what
– the ones that you are discussing in your districts, and also understand like what are
the ones that are missing here in this list. So let’s move onto institutional barriers,
okay? So institutional barriers create opportunity
gaps. Institutional barriers are policies, practices
and procedures that systematically disadvantage certain groups of students. And here’s the kicker, they can be explicit
or implicit. And here’s the part that’s really hard
to deal with, is when we’re educating our kids, we may not be thinking about putting
up a wall or making it hard for children to obtain certain opportunities. Your program in its existence and also in
its purpose may be very neutral. For example, developing a Saturday school
math course for students who need extra help. But without looking at practices and policies
with an equity lens, you may be inadvertently making it hard for certain students to access
the opportunity. So what about kids who lack transportation
on a Saturday morning? Is the teacher in charge of this program responsive? And we’ll get into that in a second. And here’s the kicker: have we talked to
parents and students who you are actually developing this program for, what they think
about the program, right? So institutional barriers is how do we mitigate
that is really thinking about everything, policies and practices to do with this equity
lens at all times. So the third thing we’re going to talk about
is – in terms of reasons of why equity is important is looking at policy shifts. Equity is not just a demographic mandate or
a moral mandate, it is actually becoming a legal mandate. Our legislation has slowly progressed towards
equity. And I’m only going to focus on the Federal
legislation here because we come from different states. But our states and even our local policies
may have moved so much further within the federal legislation. But let’s just do a quick rundown about,
you know, how equity has changed over time. We can pretty much – I wouldn’t start
here but I’m going to mention Brown v. Board of Education, 1954, then we had the Civil
Rights Act in 1964. We had the Elementary and Secondary Education
Act of 1965. We had the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Act in 1975. We had the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance
Act in 1987. No Child Left Behind Act in 2001. And then of course Every Student Succeeds
Act in 2015. And all of these policies or cases kind of
address this construct of equity and thinking about we need to provide students what they
need to be successful in multiple different ways. And so this concept of equity is not new. And so but what we’re seeing now is this
commitment to move towards – and we see it in the purpose statement in the Every Student
Succeeds Act. ‘The purpose of this title is to provide
all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable and high-quality education,
and to close educational achievement gaps.’ Now I also say we have a long way to go but
we have to understand that this is becoming like a legal mandate to provide an education
– an equitable educational system for our students. So we’re going to move on to our third question,
what does equity charge educators to do? Pursuing equity and achieving equity. I’m going to start with pursuing. ‘In the pursuit of equity, school leaders
must assess our actions locally to overcome institutional barriers and create opportunities
so that each and every child has the tools and supports necessary to achieve their highest
potential.’ We have to overcome our institutional barriers,
whether they’re implicit or explicit. And we have to create opportunities, we have
to actively move towards opportunities to make sure that our children are getting what
they need to be successful. And how do we know we’ve achieved this,
right? Is – our students’ identities will not
predetermine their success in schools. We will be closing these achievement gaps,
and that’s what we’re trying to get to. So that’s what equity charges us to do. So moving onto that, how do we do this? And so this is an action plan that PSBA developed
to help districts in our state move towards equity, and really it’s important, grounding
each step, it is essential that districts must include and affirm the voices of students,
families and communities. Without them we cannot overcome institutional
barriers and create opportunities that will support students, right? And so examples of this is making sure that
we – that our parents are serving on taskforce committees, that we have listening sessions,
that our students, we’re having opportunities for our students to share what they think. And so student voice is a huge part of this
process, and creating multiple safe, structured and flexible opportunities for dialogue and
engagement. This is important because we’re now in the
process of building trust for students and their families, and we know that we – if
we build trust that students and families – we’re going to find that our students
are going to perform academically, okay? And so I’m just going to go through the
rest of the action steps. So grounding all these other steps is this
concept of always including and affirming the voices of students, families and communities. So the first step is we have to identify and
understand our district’s demographics. Again, our demographics have changed dramatically
over time, and so we have to be ready to educate our children of today, right? We’ve got to analyze the data. We have to look at our achievement and opportunity
gaps, and an equity audit is essential in this. You’ve got to define equity for your district
and community, again, figuring out what does equity mean for your district context. We have to embed educational equity training
into all levels of professional development for administration, staff and board. We’ve got to pursue and practice cultural
awareness and proficiency. We have to analyze policies and practices
with an equity lens, and we have to really think about developing an action plan on policy
to incorporate equity into district structure. So to practice equity is a requirement of
thinking about the internal work of dealing with our own experiences about education,
and our own biases of education, but also thinking about how do we structure equity
into our district practice. So we’re going to move on to the next slide. The whole point of this whole work is to make
sure that equity serves as a foundation of your district practice, of your educational
system. Equity should lift up every aspect of the
educational system, which includes school boards, the administrations, teachers and
staff, families and communities, curriculum, finances, HR facilities, transportation, food
services and extra-curricular activities so it can reach our students. We’re going to move on to the fourth question,
what is culturally responsive pedagogy, which is probably what we’re all here today to
talk about. I just really wanted to provide a framework
of what equity is in order to kind of supplement really talking about what is culturally responsive
pedagogy. So I’m going to briefly discuss the theory
of CRP because in the next workshop you will be getting a more robust discussion on the
literature behind culturally responsive pedagogy. So culturally responsive pedagogy holds that
teachers and school leaders affirm and include students and their families’ cultural identities,
experiences, voices and values in the education process. And so we’ve had some really awesome researchers
in this work. There’s culturally responsive teaching,
you have Gloria Ladson Billings, you have Zaretta Hammond and Geneva Gay. And when we’re talking about culturally
responsive school leadership, Dr. Muhammad Khalifa is doing some really wonderful work
in that. So there’s a lot of information about culturally
responsive teaching but I also want to really describe the role of leadership in this process. So both CRP and culturally responsive school
leadership really discusses – talks about critically self – critical self-reflection. We have to deal with our own internal bias
when we are educating our children. We have to, and we must incorporate students
and families’ culture in this process. And students need to learn and – learn to
value their own culture and their own perspective as well as other perspectives in this process. CRP critiques social inequities, right? It promotes social justice. But I also want to talk a little bit about
leadership, right? It is their role, principals, superintendents,
school board directors, to develop culturally responsive teachers. And with the purpose specifically about the
board, because I work with school boards. It is their job to develop policy and practices
that is community and student centric. So number five, how does CRP relate to efforts
to achieve educational equity? And I use this quote ‘ignorance of cultural
differences could lead teachers to underestimate the true academic potential of minority students’
to kind of lift up this point. CRP is the lifeblood of equity work. How are we as school leaders or teachers or
staff members supposed to create and implement policies and practices that reflect and support
our students’ individual needs if we do not engage with students and families? If we do not listen to students and families,
and if we do not center students and families? If we do not deal with our own biases regarding
students and families, and we do not include students and families in the educational process? And I also want to say we have to engage our
marginalized students and families, the ones that are not as much – that we don’t see
as much in our program so who do not come to our parent-teacher conferences. Because this is our job, in order for us to
provide education for all students we have to engage all parents and students as well. We know from research that if students feel
like they belong, that we believe in their brilliance, that we accept their identities,
they will perform academically. To practice CRP, we have to push away any
deficit mindset that makes it hard for us to engage, seek out and work with communities
and students, okay? So the sixth question talks about this paradigm
shift of what CRP brings to broader systemic change in our educational system, okay? And again, CRP centers students and communities,
specifically students and communities that have been marginalized. When we engage in culturally responsive pedagogy,
we value the cultural practices of students and families. When we engage in culturally responsive pedagogy
we promote and – we promote engagement and belonging. When we engage in CRP, we demand high expectations
from our children, from our students. When we engage in CRP, we require continuous
training for leaders and staff to learn more practices and also to learn ways to deal with
our own issues of bias, right? CRP requires a paradigm shift in how we process
and think about student achievement. And so to kind of address this point, I’m
using Dr. Muhammad Khalifa’s work. He discusses the traditional school approach
and how we think about school achievement. And this traditional approach, it’s kind
of rather linear, or maybe I would even argue hierarchical, right? So how it works is district administrators
and school board directors develop policy, and therefore that policy impacts and informs
school leadership, such as principals. And then our school leaders, our principals,
then inform teacher practices, right? And then of course teacher practices has a
direct impact on student achievement, student performance. So this is a very linear process. But if we’re practicing and thinking about
a paradigm shift of utilizing culturally responsive approaches, we’re thinking in more of a
humanistic viewpoint, right? And so Dr. Khalifa juxtaposes this traditional
approach to this very culturally responsive approach. Where it’s not linear, it’s actually intertwined. Where the expertise is not coming specifically
just from our district and our school board leaders, it’s coming from communities and
families. And this approach, district and community
leaders work together with parents and which therefore informs school leadership, which
then of course informs teacher practices, which then informs student performance. And, again, I said this process is very intertwined. Teachers and school leadership be constantly
– be learning from the community, which includes their students and parents to develop
practices and supports to fit the needs of their students. And so I hope that this kind of framework
can help like launch the next stage into really getting in depth about actual CRP practices. But I’m going to end it with these questions
to consider. What are the primary equity concerns in your
context? We should be asking ourselves these questions. What is your definition of equity for your
district, school or community? To what extent have you analyzed data to understand
opportunity gaps in your context? What groups are impacted? Have you conducted an equity audit in your
district? To what extent have you analyzed policies
and practices with an equity lens? Which policies or practices need to be examined
and re-examined or redone, right? What steps might you take to address them? How does CRP fit into those steps? And who do you need to involve? And I think this is the most important question,
okay? Who do you need to involve? Who is missing from the conversation? Are you making decisions in isolation of students
and families? So, again, it’s coming from this space of
recognizing what equity is, and equity is, again, providing the supports that our children
need to be successful. So if that is the case then where do we get
our information from? And that is from our students and families
and uplifting their cultures and uplifting these practices as a way to reaching our students
so that they feel like they belong. Then when they feel like they belong then
they’re going to perform for us academically. So I’m now ready for any questions that
you might have. Amy Johnson: Heather, thank you so much, that
was a great presentation. And we are going to open it up for a Q&A session
right now. We have plenty of time for that. And folks, I’m just going to remind folks,
you can submit a question down in the Q&A part of this platform. I’m going to start with a first question
for you, Heather, which is can you describe how organizations can review their policies
to determine if they are supportive or not of educational equity? What does the process look like in practice? Heather Bennett: Okay, so I would again start
off to think about an equity lens approach. If you haven’t had one, I would definitely
find one. But there are some good ones, like we actually
have an equity lens approach and these are just questions and we call it. It’s like five questions for districts and
also teachers in your own classroom to ask yourselves if you’re thinking about moving
towards equity. The first question is what is the decision
and question? What does the data show regarding the impact
of the decision, like – of decision? And this could also be your policy, what does
the data show regarding the impact of the policy on student achievement opportunity
and school climate. The third question is if there are disparity
gaps between groups, why do these disparities exist? The fourth question is who is missing in the
discussion to address the disparities? And the fifth question is how will you mitigate
the disparities? So these are five questions that you can think
about in terms of reviewing your policies. If you have a policy, a school discipline
policy or a curriculum policy, or just even a practice, again, I’ll use the example
of Saturday school on a Monday, on a Saturday school for math. And really kind of going through this process
of okay, why did we come up with this decision, why was this decision made, who – what does
the data show, who’s actually engaging in this class and in the Saturday school? And if there are disparities why do they exist,
right? And then really thinking about we created
this opportunity for students, but only certain students are accessing it and others are not. Why don’t we ask the parents and the students
of those who are not accessing this opportunity to kind of get an understanding of really
thinking about these disparities on a deeper level, and then how will you mitigate the
disparities? How do you – how will you fix this, right? And so this is kind of a quick five question
way that I think organizations or districts can do – use, more systematically of course,
to kind of really start to address the barriers, opportunity in your practices or your policies. I hope that answers your question. Amy Johnson: Thanks, Heather. This might be also a good follow-up question
to that first one. Do you set goals after examining data and
gaps? Heather Bennett: You know what, I think so. You know, yes, absolutely. And the reason why I was quiet about that,
because there could be a goal – like we’re going to examine our data and gaps, right? Some districts we haven’t even done that
first step, right? And that’s a goal in itself. But yes, I would definitely – you really
don’t know what the problem is really until you have a nice little x-ray about your districts,
the system, right? And so really thinking about the disparities
going on in your district. And, again, you might – again, because we’re
going about our day, we don’t necessarily see it because some of this can be implicit,
right? Some of these things that we don’t really
notice. And so I think you have to do an x-ray, really,
of your district, do an equity audit to be able to really examine the disparities and
also set goals. Because now you know what the problem is. Without it you’re kind of thinking you know
what the problem is. But when you have an audit that says it – like
with clear data, you can now have something to base it off of, and also set – also know
where you’re going, really, as well. So, yeah, I think after the fact is important. Amy Johnson: Here’s another question for
you, Heather, and this might be one that others share. The question is – starts with the acknowledgement,
it seems like our district is stuck in the initial stages. What is the recommended timeframe to get through
the stages understanding that the work needs continuous training and work? Heather Bennett: So the initial stages in
terms of let’s think about like with the action plan, just kind of addressing the data
or just talking about it over and over again, is that where you’re at – well, I’m
just going to assume that. Amy Johnson: Yeah. Heather Bennett: Yeah. I know, I know. So I think a lot of the problem is again we
get stuck really at okay, this is the problem, this is the problem. It really now needs to go into kind of solution
mode. So, again, if you know what the problem is,
right, you’ve done an audit. That’s important. My next thing is okay, get everyone together
in a room and just say okay, what are the top three things that we need to address that’s
having a huge impact and that we see is a huge problem in our district, and let’s
tackle that. Because I think a lot of people get stuck
too because there’s so many problems, right? We see like a thousand – we have like a
list, we’ve got to address discipline, we’ve got to address early childhood literacy. We’ve got to address all these things and
sometimes we get so overwhelmed, but we don’t know where to start. And so I think sometimes we have to just start
small. What is – what can you tackle? Thinking about what are the major top three
or four, or five if you have the capacity, five things you really – that is having
a huge impact on your students, and then tackle that. And then have short term goals and also long-term
goals, because I think a lot of times when we think about goal setting, we think about
okay, we’ve got to go to long term. We’re going to cut discipline rates by 100
percent in a year. That’s insane. You have to start off with what are the 30-day
– what’s the 30-day goal that we can have ourselves, that we can feel accomplished in
so that we can keep moving forward? Because you’re constantly building capacity
in this process, constantly teaching your – you’re getting teachers and community
members and bringing them all into the fray. So it’s important to really think about
a systematic plan of maybe 30 – like a small group, small goal, and then having a huge
goal at the end. And also my advice is also just taking in
– taking – like really starting small, thinking about the first three or four issues that
you think that you can actually tackle and make a big impact, and then from there it’ll
grow. It’ll grow from there. But you don’t want to get stuck, so you
have to start somewhere. So start, but knowing that it’s okay if
you start really small and then grow it up. Amy Johnson: Great. Another question, could you provide more examples
of how institutional or teacher practices can contribute to disparities? Heather Bennett: Okay, so there’s a lot. So we all know that the research says that
teachers, like a quality teacher has probably the best impact to student achievement. And so we know that teachers are the gatekeepers
as well. So thinking about access to AP, that is a
huge opportunity. That’s a huge barrier that teachers can
have unless there’s a policy or practice that are saying that we’re going to open
it up to all students. What happens is it’s the teachers that decide
where – that decide who gets access to higher academic or gifted programming. Another thing is curriculum in itself, right? Definitely Zaretta Hammond has done some really
good work on talking about it from like the brain-wise, like how important it is for teachers
to develop practices that reflect the cultural dynamics that are in your classrooms. And so more group assignments. If you’re having – so thinking about what
our kids really need is important. So making sure that our curriculum looks like
our children but at the same time thinking about practices that help them as well. And so there’s two frameworks or perspectives
that we can think about, individualism versus collectivism. And we know that students of color and their
families and communities are more likely to focus on collectivism as like the way of how
they learn and how they process information. Also, storytelling and all of that. So teacher practices can start to reflect
that, that process of how students are learning in their homes. We can also utilize those same practices to
be learning in our – within our teachers as well, within our classrooms as well. And so I know you’re going to get a lot
more about this information in the next – in future workshops in this series. But really as a teacher, really thinking about
who your students are and really understanding how they learn is essential in this work. And also recognizing that you have a role
as a gatekeeper. That if we are not dealing with our own cultural
biases, really thinking about that in a critical level. If we are not addressing the issues that our
kids are dealing with on a daily basis and we’re not – and they don’t see that
in their curriculum and they don’t see that in the way you’re even talking to them,
or working with them, or creating a relationship with them, they’re not going to learn. So there’s a lot of roles for teachers here
but I think there’s a lot of research too for teachers as well, and helping them become
more culturally responsive to provide the needs – provide the resources and the supports
for our children to learn. Amy Johnson: Great. Here’s another question for you. How can we involve the district specifically
with equity work? When understanding power, privilege and oppression,
power can take a central role in districts where some of those individuals who hold power
are not interested in equity or believe it is necessary to include. Heather Bennett: Can you repeat that question
– Amy Johnson: Yeah, no problem. No problem. How can we involve the district specifically
with equity work? And, again, there was – sort of putting
it by way of explanation of the question, when understanding power, privilege and oppression,
power can take a central role in districts where some of those individuals who hold power
are not interested in equity or believe it is necessary to include. So I think that’s sort of the source of
the question, or that’s the sort of motivation for the question – how can we involve the
district specifically with equity work if that’s the context? Heather Bennett: Well, like I said, the – like
I said, the one thing that is positive right now, and it’s actually becoming a legislative
mandate. I don’t know everyone’s educational – I
don’t know everyone’s state as a plan, but we do know that equity is becoming front
and center in this conversation. And so what is happening and that I’m seeing
in my – in our districts in Pennsylvania is that we’re having – we have some really
good leaders in this and their districts that are championing it. And so how do we get them involved, again,
an equity audit. Keep – I say this a lot because a lot of
the time we don’t – having an equity audit to really show that children in our districts
are not performing. What happens is, again, that initial perspective
of narratives, right? That we come from a certain district and in
the past we’ve all done well because we’ve all had the same student body and therefore
we think – when we bring in new children to our district, we therefore think oh, they
need to assimilate because this is the narrative that we’ve told ourselves for generations. And so when you pop that narrative, you pop
that bubble, when you really take a good honest approach of your – of the opportunity gaps
in your district, and not just focusing on the achievement gap. That’s why I say an equity audit is important,
because now you’re really getting down and dirty to the disparities that are having – happening
in your district. And that kind of show – gives them the why
equity part of it. Because you can define what equity is all
day every day, but if you don’t explain really why this is important and your data
will show that for you. It really will. Another thing is this, I’ve seen equity
being moved in districts at different spaces, but where the community itself is calling
for it. Where you have strong parental leaders who
are championing it, where students are championing it, and I’ve also seen teachers championing
it. In one school district I saw where a teacher
asked to develop a course on race and feminism. And through that course the students themselves
took an audit of their school and they showed the disparity gaps themselves. And that kind of launched a lot of – launched
the district to moving forward as well. And so there’s different ways to do it but
I guess in terms of getting district leaders on board, the first step for me is really
just thinking about looking at really getting a good x-ray of your data disparity gaps. And then from there having good leadership
and championing it through creating an equity taskforce group. That is not just talking about the problem
that are moving towards a solution, and bringing on that district leader, the district leaders
that are in power into that taskforce group, they’re not allowed to sit on the sidelines. They have to be a part of that conversation
as well, so that they can start to grow. Because a lot of problems is just – people
just don’t know what it is, again, and then also they don’t know why. So if you’re consistently talking about
the why and how it in fact impacts our students on a daily basis, people are going to start
to move into this. They’re going to start to move into it. Amy Johnson: Heather, we have a couple questions,
and you’re really speaking to this right now. There’s more to add to it. We have a couple questions about either if
you can provide a sample of a good equity audit tool or is there a model process that
should be followed? Kind of maybe talking a little bit more specifically
about what does that look like in practice. Heather Bennett: At the top of my head the
first one I think about is the Mid Atlantic Equity Consortiums. They have a nice little audit tool and it’s
free. So I think they have some really good questions
that you can start to ask yourself, and they talk about classroom disparities, they talk
about school discipline, they talk about teachers and districts. Also access, like inclusion of families and
communities in the process. So they have kind of a nice little questionnaire. There are others, but at the top of my head
I will definitely probably provide some resources in terms of that after. But that one at the top of my head is a really
good one. Amy Johnson: Yeah, if you just say it one
more time just to make sure folks got that. Heather Bennett: The Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium
is a really good resource. They have some equity audits where – free
equity and to kind of look at and address. And there are free ones all over the place
as well. So I said at the top of my head that’s – I’m
blanking on a lot so what will happen is after this is over I’m probably going to send
a whole list out. But that’s a – that’s a really good
one to kind of start the process of thinking about an x-ray. But I know that if you bring anybody in the
first thing that most trainers will do is say hey – well, a good one will say let’s
look at your – let’s x-ray your district equity, your disparity gaps in your district. Because, again, we can’t create a solution
if we don’t know what the problem really is. So – Amy Johnson: Yeah, yeah. I’m going to switch gears a little bit. The next question, we’ll probably have time
for one or maybe two more questions, but the next one, can you give an example of engaging
parents that really achieved equity or moved toward equity? Heather Bennett: So this is – like I said,
the principal – again, context matters, who your parents are matters, again. So understanding your demographics and community,
your community history is essential here. But I’ve had a school district that created
– I call it coalition groups, right? And they broke them up like – so because
they have stronger – they had a lot more black families moving into the district. So they had a black coalition, they had a
Latino coalition, they had an Asian-American coalition, they had LGBTQ coalition of – and
so they brought them in so that they can hear directly from these groups, and then they
bring them together where now we’re having a conversation about – so all families are
included in this conversation. So you’re not missing out on a specific
demographic group, but they’re all a part of it. And so they would all meet individually and
they would bring themselves together and talk about differences, experiences and how we
can make sure that our children are all being represented and taken care of. So that’s – that was one way. And another school district go – we have
a mega church in one school district. And so what they did where most of the African-American
families in the community went to. And so the superintendent went and spoke at
one of the services at that mega church, and from there she also got more teachers of color
to come to her school district because of what she did. And so meeting parents and families where
they are I think is essential. We’re always – schools are always asking
for parents and families to engage with us when we set the rules of that engagement. Instead of thinking about how we need to reach
out to them, we are serving them. That is our role, we are serving our students. So we need to get behind our four walls and
go into the community and really think about how – what places that we see the people
that we want to engage with us. So mosques, churches I think are – community
centers are important, and especially – and also places where people live. If you have like an apartment complex and
you know a lot of students, families live in that apartment complex, setting up shop
there as well. And do it often. Because what happens is – what happens with
most districts, like we’ve tried that, we did that one time and it didn’t work. You have to be consistent because we’re
building trust, remember? CRP work is about building trust in the community. It’s saying that we’re going to get our
expertise – our – the community perspective, that is essential to doing this equity work. Therefore we have to actively engage, meaning
we have to go beyond our walls and say we’re going to do it not once, not twice but more,
multiple times, so people feel like they’re comfortable to create a sense of trust and
building trust in community with the parents and families. And so there is actually – there’s actually
some research but let me think. There’s some research by – why I’m blanking
on it, in Baltimore. But they said that they – achievement gaps
went down when a lot more teachers did more home visits. And so – Johns Hopkins, I’m sorry. Johns Hopkins University has research done
and they found that achievement gaps went down when those – when the teachers did
more home visits. So really thinking about engaging the community
on a systematic way is important, and also asking some parents to be a part of your equity
taskforce teams, or committee teams, or – so – and being very cognizant of reaching out
to families and communities that have not engaged in the past. And also recognizing which structures that
we are placing them makes it hard for certain parents and families to engage with us. Is it hard for them to get to the school district
because of transportation? Is our communication – are we only communicating
through one way when our parents are communicating in another way? It’s really taking a really good, really
structured look at how we’re accessing the community, and how they’re accessing us. And that’s data. Again, equity audit, I’m telling you, that
works. Amy Johnson: Well, I think we’re just about
out of time for questions. I just want to say thanks again to Heather
for today’s webinar and this great Q&A session, great questions. Thank you for taking all of them and answering
these questions so thoughtfully, Heather. To audience members, you’ll see on your
action plan the same questions that are up on the view right now that Heather posed at
the end of the webinar with a prompt and some space to begin developing your own responses. Sort of the beginning of your own action plan. As a quick reminder to the audience, the next
webinar in this series will be held on October 2nd. Eric Duncan from WestEd will share research
on culturally responsive practices and discuss how to sustain systemic change. So thank you to everyone for joining us, we
look forward to having you join us again in early October. I’m just going to turn this back to you,
Brian. Webinar producer: Thank you, Amy. Please note, at the conclusion of this webinar
there will be a brief survey. Please take the time to fill it out. When you’ve completed the survey press the
submit button. As a reminder, the on-demand recording will
be available one day after the webcast using the same audience link that was sent to you
following registration. The recording and the transcript will be available
on the REL Mid Atlantic website in the coming weeks. Thanks for joining today’s event. Have a great afternoon. This work was funded by the U.S. Department
of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) under contract ED-IES-17-C-0006, with
REL Mid-Atlantic, administered by Mathematica Policy Research. The content does not necessarily reflect the
views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names,
commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government. PAGE: 2 [email protected] https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/edlabs/regions/midatlantic/ [email protected]

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