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A Framework for Addressing Educational Inequities in Our Schools

To remedy and reverse the equity challenges present within our schools, it is essential that school leadership teams focus on closing the gap between their mission statement and the lived experiences of their entire community – parents, caregivers, teachers, administrators, staff, and students. 

To achieve world-class, equitable schools that effectively serve Black, Latinx, and Indeginous students, CommunityBuild Ventures (CBV) offers a research and community-based approach entitled Equity Centered School Improvement. Equity Centered School Improvement is a process that quantifies equity, disrupts deficit views, and engages continuous school improvement.

To learn more about the CBV Equity Centered School Improvement framework and process, email Ayodele Harrison at ayodele@communitybuildventures.com

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A Framework for Addressing Educational Inequities in Our Schools

race-based disparities and racial stereotypes affected her students

it seemed like a missed opportunity to speak directly to the students’ lived experience and to prepare them to confront a racist world,” El-Amin says. “As a school, we should have been doing much more to help them deconstruct some of the racist forces that we knew exist.”

school as an important place where students of color should learn not just to navigate the complexities of racism, but also change it.

A lot of schools do provide students with knowledge to navigate society, but children also need to be equally equipped with the skills and capacity to break the status quo,

Her research demonstrates that in order to confront issues of race, a school needs a comprehensive model that addresses race in the curriculum, pedagogy, school culture, and practices. 

Five core elements include:

• Sound racial identity, or to see one’s racial identity as a strength and asset

• Critical consciousness, or the ability to identify and deconstruct issues of inequity

• Critical academic achievement identity, or the ability to link academic achievement with navigating society and transforming it

• Collective obligation, or a sense of responsibility to a group

• Activism skills, or ability to create and sustain systemic change.

More than cultural competence or diversity awareness, equity literacy prepares us to recognize even the subtlest forms of bias, inequity, and oppression related to race, class, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, language, religion, immigration status, and other factors. Through equity literacy we prepare ourselves to understand how experience disparities, not just quantitatively measured outcome disparities, affect student access to equitable educational opportunity free of bias, inequity, and discrimination. 

equity is a process through which we ensure that policies, practices, institutional cultures, and ideologies are actively equitable, purposefully attending to the interests of the students and families to whose interests we have attended inequitably. By recognizing and deeply understanding these sorts of disparities, we prepare ourselves to respond effectively to inequity in the immediate term. We also strengthen our abilities to foster long-term change by redressing institutional and societal conditions that create everyday manifestations of inequity. 

Five Abilities of Equity Literacy

The knowledge and skills of equity literacy cultivate in individuals and institutions four equity abilities: 

the ability to recognize even the subtlest biases and inequities,

the ability to respond skillfully and equitably to biases and inequities in the immediate term,

the ability to redress biases and inequities by understanding and addressing them at their institutional roots, 

the ability to actively cultivate equity by applying an equity commitment to every decision, and

the ability to sustain equity efforts even in the face of discomfort or resistance.

racial justice in education requires movement beyond racial equity

We have a deep understanding of racial history and the trauma caused and are able to acknowledge its presence throughout systems, norms, practices and policies.

We focus on solutions that will build power (political, economic, civic, community) for the most sharply impacted communities and people.

We effectively use racial impact assessment tools & develop racial justice action plans.

We shift and share power, program, & resources.

We adopt anti-racist and racial justice protocols & practices.

We shift culture and narrative.

Data is used to drive results/impacts.

The debate about whether schools can eradicate gaps in educational achievement between students of different races and socioeconomic backgrounds has persisted for decades. 

On one side of the debate are those who argue schools cannot possibly eliminate educational inequality before society eradicates economic inequality—that economic and social inequalities outside of schools make closing achievement gaps inside of schools unlikely at best and impossible at worst. 

On the other side of the debate are those who point to a significant body of research, which provides strong evidence that schools can, in fact, foster high levels of achievement among disadvantaged students by increasing both the quantity and quality of instruction students receive: increasing instructional time, reducing class size, expanding access to high quality preschool, improving teachers’ knowledge and skill, and so forth. 

The paradox is that, despite promising evidence from quite a number of these discrete interventions, the whole

has failed to exceed the sum of its parts; decades of school reform efforts have, on the whole, failed to produce schools that reliably educate disadvantaged students to high levels and achievement gaps persist. In fact, social class differences in educational achievement have increased over the past forty years

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