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School Climate & Culture

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Today’s schools comprise youth from a wide range of cultures and communities. Because all students deserve equitable opportunities for achievement, schools must strive to create culturally proficient learning environments that intentionally cultivate positive emotional and socio-cultural development for diverse students.

MAEC provides targeted technical assistance and support services to school districts to address disparities in academic achievement and social emotional development among diverse student groups. MAEC utilizes staff expertise, collaborative planning, capacity building, and strategic partnership in order to focus on building, modifying, and/or sustaining positive school culture and climate.


Community Resource Mapping

MAEC uses a strengths-based approach for asset mapping, since often the best solutions come from within the communities in which our districts/schools reside. These key stakeholders include districts, schools, communities, and families all who are seeking to increase student achievement. To this end, MAEC conducts community walks and community resource mapping to identify potential partners and allies for effective and efficient delivery of services. This process includes attention to alignment between district and school needs and priorities so together partners can build the social and human capital that will help students and staff thrive.

Comprehensive Needs Assessment

Beginning with a disaggregated data analysis of student achievement, student discipline, and school climate, MAEC is able to effectively determine client strengths and areas of need. This collaborative inquiry approach enables MAEC to examine multiple sources of data. Using a culturally responsive and equity framework, further creates opportunities to develop operational action plans to tackle complex challenges that pose barriers to gains in student achievement.

Culturally Responsive Family, School, and Community Engagement

A family is a child’s first teacher. When families’ partner with schools and community organizations, children thrive. To produce the best results for students, MAEC builds the capacity of families, educators, schools, and community organizations to collaborate, exchange ideas, and develop and implement policies and action plans. We build on the collaborative strengths of families, educators, and community members so they can each contribute to the development and success of diverse students.

Culturally Responsive Leadership

Leaders set the tone and expectations of any organization. They do this by responding effectively to the diverse communities that they serve, being asset-focused, and proactive problem solvers. Culturally responsive leadership technical assistance provides a multi-dimensional framework that builds capacity of educators who are culturally informed and highly skilled in culturally responsive practice.

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

Culturally responsive pedagogy is a method and practice of teaching in which educators and providers build on the assets that their students and families bring into the classroom. As the populations of our students grow more diverse, staff must be better prepared to respond to their needs. This requires a greater understanding and knowledge of their students’ culture, strengths, and socio-political contexts. With this practice, schools can become hubs of learning focused on the well being of the students and families being served.

Policy & Procedural Reviews

In educational systems, policies and procedures often inform practice. However, some policies or procedures may have unintended consequences when implemented that serve to further silo organizational efforts to close opportunity gaps. To address this challenge, MAEC provides state departments, districts, schools, and organizations with policy and procedural reviews to ensure they are equitable, effective, and comply with federal, state, and local laws and regulations.

Advancing Capacity as Culturally Proficient Leaders

This training series is designed to advance the capacity of district leadership to embed cultural proficiency into their roles and the roles of those they support. This training series transcends cultural proficiency on the individual level to equip leaders with tools that address the systemic and structural role of cultural proficiency in school district transformation. The trainings include the following components: Cultural Proficiency Continuum, School Leader Identity Reflection, Multicultural Education – Cultural Influence on Perspective, Multiple Worlds Theory, Historical, Societal, and Political Contextualization, Cultural Responsive Leadership Norms, Essential Elements of Cultural Proficiency, Building Positive School Culture and Climate, and Culture and Climate Self Study.

Culturally Responsive Discipline Models and Practice

Creating a positive school and classroom culture is essential to reducing non-academic behaviors that lead to referrals and suspensions. Culturally Responsive Discipline Models and Practice guides educators through the exploration and analysis of discipline models and policies, including student codes of conduct and culture and climate surveys. The trainings include the following components: School Climate and Culture, PBIS vs. CRPBIS, School Climate Survey Samples, Student Codes of Conduct Models, Root Cause Analysis, and Engaging with Disproportionality.

Culturally Responsive Leadership Practice

This training series provides guidelines and tools designed to facilitate efforts to lead a school in which  good intentions evolve into positive impact. The trainings include the following components: Good Intentions to Positive Impact, Social Cultural Teaching and Learning, Essential Elements of Cultural Proficiency, Collaborative Leadership Team, School-Wide Systems for Student Success, and Institutionalizing Cultural Knowledge.

Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning

This training series is intended for school-based educators to explore the impact that identity and context have on teaching and learning; build an understanding of educational access, participation, and outcomes as they relate to issues of power and privilege; and apply new knowledge to begin planning for culturally responsive practice implementation. The trainings include the following components: Opportunity Gaps, Disproportionality, Exploring Personal Identity, Perceptions about Students and Learning, Structural Racism vs. Poverty, Cultural Context, Data Analysis and Decision-Making, and Asset-based Approach to Teaching and Learning.

Evolving as Culturally Responsive Educators

This training series is intended to build capacity of educators as culturally proficient leaders. The trainings include the following components: Cultural Proficiency Continuum, School Educator Identity Reflection, Cultural Influence on Perspective, Habits of Mind, Elements of Cultural Identity, Essential Elements of Cultural Proficiency, and Multicultural Education – Cultural Influence on Perspective.

Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN)

MAEC partners with the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN), to provide train-the-trainer sessions to their designated professional development leadership team. MAEC’s technical assistance is anchored in culturally responsive approaches to Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (CRPBIS) and Culturally Responsive Teaching. This assistance seeks to address identified needs to reinforce district efforts to reduce the disparities in discipline. The project is currently embedded in seven pilot demonstration sites and is ultimately projected toward building a state-wide initiative. The following outcomes have resulted from the first year of train-the-trainer sessions:

  • Increased capacity for leading culturally responsive professional development;
  • Creation of seven demonstration sites to systematically address needed reductions in disproportionality in discipline;
  • Increased effectiveness in the development and administration of school culture and climate surveys.

Post Image Building Relationships for Student Success

Part of CEE’s Exploring Equity Issues series, this paper discusses the importance of building relationships with students in schools, classrooms, and out-of-time school programs. It also provides principles and practices that educators have used to build positive relationships and school cultures.  

Building Relationships for Student Success

PART I: RELATIONSHIPS WITH STUDENTS MATTER As the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child concluded in a 2004 report, “relationships engage children in the human  community in ways that help them define who they are, what they become, and how and why they are important to other people.” Or as researchers Junlei Li and Megan Julian have argued, interventions that don’t focus on relationships are as effective as toothpaste without fluoride (Li & Julian, in press). How do you build positive relationships with students in schools, classrooms, and out-of-time school programs? How do these relationships contribute to the overall culture of the learning environment in schools? Why is this particularly important for students who have to overcome challenging childhood experiences? Data show the more positive relationships that students have, the more likely they are to be successful in school and in their lives (Roehlkepartian & Pekel et. al, Science Research, 2017). Again, this is particularly true for our more vulnerable students who may face challenging situations outside of school and need adults at school who can engage and motivate them. Schools are small societies. These small societies are usually under considerable stress because they must perform in the context of many internal and external demands. All too often a sense of siege results and a garrison mentality can arise. One of the pioneers in the sociology of education, Willard Waller, characterized school culture as “a despotism in a state of perilous equilibrium.” But Waller’s vision is too bleak. Schools can be joyful and exciting places to learn if attention is paid to ensuring and promoting healthy relationships among students, teachers, administrators, staff,  families, and the community. The sum total of these relationships is a school’s culture and building them must be a priority. Harvard educator Roland Barth (2002, p.6) once observed, “A school’s culture has far more influence on life and learning in the school house than the president of the country, state department of education, the superintendent, the school board, and even the principal, teachers and parents can ever have.” According to the Great Schools Partnership, the term “school culture”generally refers to the beliefs,perceptions, relationships, attitudes, and written and unwritten rules that shape and influence every aspect of how a school functions. The term also encompasses more concrete issues such as the physical and emotional safety of students, the orderliness of classrooms and public spaces, or the degree to which a school embraces and celebrates racial, ethnic, linguistic, or cultural diversity. The importance of a positive school culture based on health and productive relationships for student success is supported by research. James Coleman and his associates, in particular, brought to public attention the power of positive relationships and school cultures in shaping student achievement. Since their 1981 publication, High School Achievement: Public, Catholic, and Private Schools Compared, the study of school cultures has grown to include the work of other scholars such as Anthony Bryk and Barbara Schneider (2004), whose study of trust makes it clear that healthy relationships build trust which in turn leads to inclusive and productive learning environments. A school’s culture reveals its underlying ethos and its unspoken assumptions about the value of relationships. These characteristics matter to young people seeking to find themselves and envision a positive future. Capturing this organizational magic in a bottle is not an easy task, but to ignore the cultural DNA of schools is to overlook their potential power to transform lives. Positive relationships which help to build positive school cultures, however, are not ends in themselves. The goal is to create great schools and school systems that unleash human talent by becoming genuine learning communities. As Adams, Ford, and Forsyth (2015) write: Teachers learn and grow from personal and shared reflections of teaching practice. Principals leverage trust and commitment to bring transformative visions to life. Students are motivated and engaged when they relate to instructional materials and find meaning in academic tasks. Learning opportunities expand when schools, families and communities establish relational cohesion. Today the issue of building relationships for student success is critically important. Roughly half the country’s public school students are eligible for free or reduced priced meals. Less than half the students enrolling in public schools today are white. We are a multicultural, multiracial, and multilingual society. We must learn to celebrate differences and work together for the common good. These positive relationships begin at the school house door. What can we do on a practical basis to ensure that we build positive relationships and school cultures so all students succeed? PART II: WHAT CAN WE DO? The elements that contribute to positive relationships and school culture include: building trust, conveying care, stimulating growth, sharing decision making, increasing possibilities (Search Institute, 2017), a safe and supportive environment, effective school leadership, culturally responsive pedagogy and practice, high quality teachers, rigorous instruction, numerous extracurricular activities, staff collaboration, and college and career readiness. The bedrock quality of a positive school culture is the inclusion of family and community. Community is a big concept; inclusion means everyone. Below are some principles and practices that educators have used to build positive relationships and school cultures: ADHERE TO AND INTERNALIZE BASIC PRINCIPLES The first step is a commitment to basic principles including: Relationships with students matter. First and foremost, time, effort, and caring can result in increased student engagement and higher academic achievement. Professional learning opportunities to develop relational skills are vital to creating a positive learning environment. A school’s vision and mission should be based on a co-constructed approach between schools, diverse families, and communities where all cultures are elevated and respected. Differences in culture and language should be seen as assets and funds of knowledge. Policies and practices should be aligned with specific needs of students. It is imperative that program offerings are aligned to teach and assess diverse students, including English Learners, African American, Latino children, and other populations whose academic achievement needs to be addressed to reduce and eliminate the achievement gap. School leaders must set the tone and demonstrate consistent commitment to inclusion and mutual respect. Leadership is essential to the success of building a positive school culture. Successful school leadership requires both modeling and implementing practices that include the whole community in decision making. Teachers need embedded professional learning opportunities to empower them to act as agents of change. On-going culturally competent professional development enables teachers to learn skills and receive support as needed. POSITIVE SCHOOL CULTURES INCLUDE FAMILY AND COMMUNITY We know there are certain policies and practices which increase learning for all students and promote inclusive and supportive school cultures. Here are some suggestions: Communicate regularly with families, community, and the public. All positive relationships are based on open and honest communication. No one in a school should feel silenced.  Communicate positive information about students to their families. Build on identified family resources and their funds of knowledge. This will help create authentic engagement to increase and sustain academic achievement (e.g. home visiting programs). Revise or refine the school’s discipline code with student and family input Emphasize understanding and reconciliation rather than punishment. Reflection is critically important for creating positive relationships. By embracing diversity and, by recognizing the worth of all people, schools can change from the inside-out in a genuine organic way and become nurturing environments where positive relationships develop and thrive. And students develop and thrive. Written by Peter W. Cookson, Jr. - Principal Researcher, American Institutes for Research. Edited by Susan Shaffer - President, MAEC REFERENCES Adams, C., Ford T. & Forsyth P. (2015). Next generation school accountability: A report commissioned by the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Tulsa, OK: The Oklahoma Center for Education Policy & the Center for Educational Research and Evaluation. Bryk, A. S. & Schneider, B. (2004). Trust in schools: A core resource for improvement. New York: The Russell Sage Foundation. Barth, R. S. (2002). The culture builder. Educational Leadership, 59 (8), 6–11. Coleman, J. S., Hoffer, T., & Kilgore, S. (1981). High school achievement: Public, Catholic and private schools compared. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center. Li, J., & Julian, M. M. (2012). Developmental relationships as the active ingredient: A unifying working hypothesis of “what works” across intervention settings. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 82(2), 157–166. doi10.1111/J.1939-0025.2012.01151.X National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2004). Young children develop in an environment of relationships. Working Paper No. 1. Cambridge, MA: National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. Retrieved from Roehlkepartain, E. C., Pekel, K., Syvertsen, A. K., Sethi, J., Sullivan, T. K., & Scales, P. C. (2017). Relationships First: Creating Connections that Help Young People Thrive. Minneapolis, MN: Search Institute. Search Institute. (2017, May). The developmental relationships framework. Retrieved from  

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Post Image Criteria for an Equitable School – Equity Audit

  This tool helps school leaders assess whether or not the school provides the processes and information which create a positive learning environment so students and staff can perform at their highest level. To download this, and the other Equity Audit tools, please go to MAEC's Equity Audit page.

Download: Criteria for an Equitable School-2020-accessible

Post Image Culturally Responsive Leaders

Part of CEE’s Exploring Equity Issues series, this paper examines why it is important for educators to be culturally responsive leaders in order to address the needs of their culturally and linguistically diverse learners. Using one of CEE's case studies, it highlights several preconditions necessary for achieving this and outlines the Essential Elements of Cultural Competence.

Culturally Responsive Leaders

PART I: TIMES HAVE CHANGED, AND THEY HAVEN’T The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that in 2014,students of color represented slightly more than half (50.5%) of all public school students, an increase from 38.8% in 2000 (McFarland et al., 2018). Meanwhile, teacher demographics have remained stagnant. NCES data list 81.9% of public school teachers in 2012 as White (the latest year available), a small decrease from 84.3% in 2000 (Musu-Gillette et al., 2016, US ED, 2016). They are not just White; they are predominantly White, female, and middle class. Why is this important? Research shows that students’ race, ethnicity, and cultural background significantly influence their achievement (Aceves & Orosco, 2014). Yet many teachers are inadequately prepared to address the needs of their culturally and linguistically diverse learners (Skiba, et al., 2011; Darling-Hammond, 2010; Miller, 2009). Culturally responsive teachers can close the achievement gap by fostering academic optimism, raising expectations of excellence, connecting with each student’s prior knowledge, and delivering content knowledge in ways students can understand (Ball & Forzani, 2011; Farr, 2010; Brown et al., 2009; Miller, 2009). Culturally responsive leaders nurture and maintain high-quality teaching, and foster an inclusive community that builds on teacher, student, and family assets. The recognition that schools need culturally responsive teachers and leaders is not new. In 2005, the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) published a report on preparing and supporting diverse, culturally responsive leaders (then referred to as culturally competent leaders). It grew out of a series of meetings among practitioners in the field. It was intended to provide field-based insights from people working in/with leadership development programs for school leaders across the country. The report outlined five themes: 1. Educational leaders who are not culturally competent cannot be fully effective. 2. Culturally competent leaders work to understand their own biases as well as patterns of discrimination. They have the skills to mitigate the attendant negative effects on student achievement and the personal courage and commitment to persist. 3. Much of what culturally competent leaders must know and be able to do is learned in relationships with families and communities. 4. Culturally competent leadership develops over time and needs to be supported from preparation through practice. Creating collaborative frameworks and structures can be useful. 5. State and local policies need to build a sense of urgency about preparing culturally competent leaders (IEL, 2005). A Case Study CEE engaged in a technical assistance project with a school district that was designed to assist educators in becoming culturally responsive leaders. This district of 3,600 students had four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Its student population was 77% White, 3% African American, 13% Asian, 4% two or more races, and 4% Latino/a. Less than 1% were English learners and 4% were economically disadvantaged. One of the superintendent’s priorities for the school year was for district staff to develop an understanding of the importance of culturally responsive pedagogy and practice. He requested assistance to facilitate conversations on race, class, and gender. The district had received three complaints from families who reported receiving unfair treatment. He recognized the challenges of addressing potentially deeply-rooted biases. CEE began work at the elementary school with the greatest diversity of students. CEE offered a professional development workshop to about 50 school staff along with the superintendent. The workshop was designed to allow persons of different backgrounds to gain an  understanding of culturally responsive teaching in a non-threatening way. It focused on developing an understanding of how cultural background and prior experiences shape mindsets and worldviews. The goal was for teachers to be able to use this information to shape how they engage with and support students from diverse backgrounds. The session provided an opportunity for teachers and the superintendent to discuss reports from some families regarding their discomfort in the district and how the district could implement strategies to address these concerns. Initial teacher response to the session was generally positive, but teachers questioned why the district was offering this session. They also appreciated having an opportunity for discussion and the reminder that people are defined by so many characteristics. But they would have liked to have been given suggestions on how to treat students more equitably and given more time to brainstorm together to come up with a plan and tools for engaging parents in this work. CEE conducted a discussion with a smaller group of school and district staff to see how to move the project more quickly. They agreed to  focus on facilitating sessions among teachers to help them feel less defensive and become more open to addressing issues of culture and equity in the district. To be successful, staff need the rationale behind the professional development so that they are better prepared to engage in difficult conversations. PART II: WHAT CAN WE DO? There are many preconditions to becoming a culturally responsive leader. Our case study highlighted the following lessons learned: FOSTER RELATIONSHIPS Foster relationships between district leadership and staff to discuss issues such as school climate, cultural responsive pedagogy and practice, authentic family and community engagement, and equitable opportunities for students. Culturally responsive leaders have the capacity to break down systems of practice that perpetuate inequities. They need to engage people from different cultures and to act as cultural brokers. This means they must communicate effectively a culturally responsive vision and goals, not always an easy task. They must simultaneously be a catalyst for change while handling dissonance. Above all, they need to create a safe environment for courageous conversations about cultural responsiveness, and where people are held accountable. BUILD TRUST FIRST Build trust and establish relationships prior to providing professional development. This will enable staff to acknowledge, accept, and reflect on their own biases and potential consequences for their school or district. This valuable reflection time will more likely lead to buy-in from staff and enable sustainability. The staff also needs professional supports to engage in this challenging work. BE TRANSPARENT Be transparent about the reasons for professional development and create a thriving, culturally responsive professional learning community. Provide the rationale for the professional development so participants are better prepared to engage in difficult conversations. Culturally responsive leaders are vulnerable with staff as they engage in these discussions. As the case studied showed, teachers questioned why they were attending this particular topic for professional development. A thriving, culturally responsive professional learning community supports adult learning that is reflective of student racial and cultural backgrounds and includes educator of color voices. CULTIVATE STRONG LEADERS Cultivate strong leadership within the school building and district to build and sustain the necessary cultural and instructional changes. Culturally responsive leaders need an understanding of critical theories about how people learn. They also need to know the impact of race, power, legitimacy, cultural capital, poverty, disability, ethnicity, gender, age, language, and other factors on learning. Equally important, they need to understand patterns of discrimination, inequalities, and injustice associated with individual groups. Finally, they need to be able to articulate their own philosophy of education and to examine whether they use it to maintain the status quo or to empower others’ active participation in their own transformation. KNOW YOUR DISTRICT AND YOUR BUILDING Whether using an external consultant or a qualified district staff member, devote sufficient time to learn about your district characteristics, needs, and interests. A culturally responsive leader knows who is in their district and who is in the building and community. Addressing cultural responsiveness requires a tailored approach. Culturally responsive leaders should understand the cultural history of their schools, families, and communities. They should aim to possess a global perspective. Culturally responsive leaders also know and question their own values, commitments, beliefs, prejudices, and uses of power and influence. They must be able to understand a variety of contexts and situations and to accept challenges that arise. Conclusion Culturally responsive leadership improves learning (Darling-Hammond, 2010). The work of educational leaders is to ensure that teachers have the knowledge and skills necessary to ensure that every student receives the highest quality instruction every day. When educational leaders lack cultural understanding, they may react defensively in the face of diversity to maintain the status quo (IEL, 2005). When educational leaders understand the cultural context, they can set a tone for collaboration and facilitate academic excellence. Written by Phoebe Schlanger, MAEC The Essential Elements of Cultural Competence #1 ASSESSING CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE What would a culturally responsive leader do? Assemble his/her collaborative leadership team to reassess the extent to which cultural knowledge of students is clearly present in the school’s vision and mission. #2 VALUING DIVERSITY What would a culturally responsive leader do? Conduct a school climate survey and determine whether school policies and procedures value cultural diversity. #3 MANAGING THE DYNAMICS OF DIFFERENCE What would a culturally responsive leader do? Examine and monitor the extent to which Culturally Responsive Classroom Management and Culturally Responsive Positive Behavior Supports and Management Systems are in place and contribute to reducing the frequency of discipline referrals, suspensions, and expulsions. #4 ADAPTING TO DIVERSITY What would a culturally responsive leader do? Monitor the extent to which s/he strategically and systematically engages teacher leaders in collaborative inquiry as a means for transforming the process of decision making. #5 INSTITUTIONALIZING CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE What would a culturally responsive leader do? Examine the extent to which the protocols for teacher placement, teacher performance observation, and teacher evaluation take into account the experience of schooling of students who are disproportionately underserved. REFERENCES Aceves, T. C., & Orosco, M. (2014). Culturally responsive teaching (Document No. IC-2). Retrieved May 25, 2018 from University of Florida, Collaboration for Effective Educator, Development,Accountability, and Reform Center website: Ball, D. L., & Forzani, F. (2011). Teaching skillful teaching. Educational Leadership, 68(4), 40-45. Basterra, M. d., Trumbull, E., & Solano-Flores, G. (2011). Cultural validity in assessment: Addressing linguistic and cultural diversity. New York: Routledge. Brown, R., Copeland, W., Costello, E., Erkanli, A., & Worthman, C. (2009). Family and community influences on educational outcomes of Appalachian youth. Journal of Community Psychology, 37(7): 795–808. doi: 10.1002/jcop.20331 CampbellJones, B., CampbellJones, F., & Love, N. (2009). Bringing cultural proficiency to collaborative inquiry. In N. Love (Ed.), Using data to improve learning for all: A collaborative inquiry approach (80-95). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Cross, Terry L., Bazron, Barbara J., Dennis, Karl W., and Isaacs, Mareasa R. (March 1989). Towards a culturally competent system of care: A monograph on effective services for minority children who are severally emotional disturbed. Georgetown University Child Development Center. Retrieved May 25, 2018 from Darling-Hammond, L. (2010). The flat world and education: How America's commitment to equity will determine our future. New York: Teachers College, Columbia University. Farr, S. (2010). Teaching as leadership: The highly effective teacher's guide to closing the achievement gap. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Hanover Research (August 2014). Strategies for building cultural competency. Retrieved May 25, 2018 from Institute for Educational Leadership. (2005). Preparing and supporting diverse, culturally competent leaders: practice and policy considerations. Washington, DC. ISBN 1-933493-01-1 McFarland, J., Hussar, B., Wang, X., Zhang, J., Wang, K., Rathbun, A., Barmer, A., Forrest Cataldi, E., and Bullock Mann, F. (2018). The condition of education 2018 (NCES 2018-144). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved May 25, 2018 from asp?pubid=2018144 Miller, M. (2009). Teaching for a new world: Preparing high school educators to deliver college and career-ready instruction [Policy Brief]. Washington, DC: Alliance for Excellent Education. Musu-Gillette, L., Robinson, J., McFarland, J., KewalRamani, A., Zhang, A., and Wilkinson-Flicker, S. (2016). Status and trends in the education of racial and ethnic groups 2016 (NCES 2016-007). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC. Retrieved May 30, 2018 from Reform Support Network. (2015). Promoting more equitable access to effective teachers: Strategic options for states to improve placement and movement. Retrieved May 25, 2018 from: Skiba, R.J., Honer, R.H., Chung, C-G, Rausch, M.K., May, S.L., & Tobin, T. (2011). Race is not neutral: A national investigation of African American and Latino disproportionality in school discipline. School Psychology Review, 40(1), 85-107. Bloomington, IN: National Association of School Psychologists. The Aspen Education & Society Program and the Council of Chief State School Officers. (2017). Leading for equity: Opportunities for state education chiefs. Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Education, Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development, Policy and Program Studies Service (2016). The state of racial diversity in the educator workforce.Washington, DC. Retrieved May 25, 2018 from      

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Post Image Introduction to Restorative Practices: An Equitable Approach

Restorative practices is an approach to build relationships within a community. Its purpose is to prevent conflict and wrongdoing and respond to wrongdoing after it occurs. This article provides an introduction to restorative practices, including implementation challenges, success stories, and tips on how to get started. By adopting positive and inclusive tools to resolve conflict and build community, schools can provide a safe environment in which all students thrive.     EXPLORING EQUITY ISSUES Introduction to Restorative Practices: An Equitable Approach May 2021 Susan Villani, Ed.D. Senior Program Associate, WestEd   EQUITY-BASED RESTORATIVE PRACTICES – NOW MORE THAN EVER The Center for Education Equity at MAEC has developed a guide to help schools use Restorative Practices to build relationships and address conflict. For more than a year, our nation has been struggling to navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing social issues that violently target people based on their identity, such as their race, gender, sexual orientation, or immigration status. By adopting positive and inclusive tools to resolve conflict and build community, schools can provide a safe environment in which all students thrive. Restorative practices is grounded in inclusion, empathy, and community-mindedness, and provides a strong antidote to the traumas stemming from social issues and traditional, punishment-oriented conflict resolution practices. These approaches can guide students and educators to build healthy relationships and promote the well-being of their school community. With the call for a total return to classrooms, educators and school leaders must be ready to address increased disparities and to rebuild social ties affected by ongoing and amplified traumas. Together, we can help heal this country and shape a brighter future for all students. PART I: WHAT IS THE RESTORATIVE PRACTICES APPROACH? “Restorative Practices is an emerging social science that studies how to strengthen relationships between individuals as well as social connections within communities” (International Institute for Restorative Practices, n.d.). A Mindset as Well as an Approach Restorative practices is an approach to build relationships within a community. Its purpose is to prevent conflict and wrongdoing and respond to wrongdoing after it occurs. Many schools choose to use restorative practices to eliminate or significantly reduce repeated and long-term student suspensions. A restorative practices approach is more than managing misbehavior. It offers a proactive strategy to create a connected, responsible school community where all members feel valued and have the opportunity to thrive. Building Relationships When responding to wrongdoing, restorative practices brings together everyone affected by the conflict to discuss what happened, how they were affected, and what they need to do to restore a positive relationship. Restorative practices, whether proactive or reactive, emphasizes every school member’s responsibility to the community. Thus, it is a profoundly relational practice. A restorative practices approach is more than a collection of protocols and activities; it is a mindset, a belief about building and restoring community. The driving idea behind restorative practices is that damaging behaviors cause harm and that harm needs to be repaired. A restorative practices approach involves: 1. Respecting the opinions and experiences of all individuals involved in or affected by a harmful behavior. 2. Taking responsibility for individual actions and how they harm others. 3. Repairing harm by accepting obligations to others in the community and working collaboratively to identify and follow through on solutions. 4. Reintegrating the person harmed and the person who caused harm into the community using structured and supportive processes to ensure behaviors are not repeated. 5. Valuing inclusion, honesty, empathy, responsibility, and accountability, all of which are at the core of the restorative process. Key Restorative Practices and Processes There are various restorative practices commonly found in schools. The following list, modified from “Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships & Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools” (Advancement Project, 2014), gathers a range of restorative practices, from simple practices that require little training to implement, to more intensive practices that require specific expertise because of the more sensitive or complex nature of students’ disciplinary events. Informal restorative practices embedded in school culture: • Circles • Restorative chats • Restorative conferences • Community conferences • Peer mediation • Peer juries Implementation Challenges Fronius et al. (2019) conducted a comprehensive literature review of some challenges of implementing Restorative Justice (a term often used interchangeably with restorative practices) in schools. These challenges are all applicable to restorative practices: • Confusion about what qualifies as Restorative Justice. • Lack of consensus about the best implementation models. • Staff time and buy-in required. • Training and resources needed. • Teachers performing duties outside their typical job description, including conducting circles during instructional time and more time talking one-to-one with students. • Perception that Restorative Justice is “soft on student offenses.” • Deep shift to a restorative climate could take three to five years (Evans & Lester, 2013). • Resources needed to sustain the initiative for three to five years. Why Alternatives to Suspensions Are Critical Specific student subgroups are suspended more frequently. According to the U.S. Department of Education’s 2014 Civil Rights Data Collection, students with disabilities are more than twice as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as students without disabilities. Likewise, Black students are 3.8 times as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions than their White peers. The U.S. Government Accounting Office (2018) wrote that the disparities in discipline for students who are Black, are male, or have disabilities occur regardless of the type of the disciplinary action, level of school poverty, or type of public school attended. High rates of suspensions and expulsions are often the result of zero-tolerance policies, which require school officials to apply specific, consistent, and harsh punishment when students break certain rules, regardless of the seriousness of the behavior, mitigating circumstances, or situational context. According to U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (2014), nationwide, as many as 95% of out-of-school suspensions are for non-violent misbehaviors, such as tardiness, dress code violations, or using bad language. Zero-tolerance policies have led to increased numbers of youth being “pushed out” of school (suspended or expelled) with no evidence of positive impact on school safety (Losen, 2014). These approaches do not deal with the root causes of misbehavior or violence, and they compromise learning time, school connectedness, and meaningful opportunities for growth. Zero-tolerance approaches also hurt teacher-student relationships. Students who are suspended even once in ninth grade are twice as likely to drop out of school, from 16% to 32% (Balfanz, 2013). Higher-suspending schools gain no improvement in school achievement, boast higher dropout rates, and increase the likelihood that their students will enter the juvenile justice system (Losen & Martinez, 2013). There is a strong relationship between poor education and incarceration. Students who fail to finish high school are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested than high school graduates. Sixty-eight percent of all men in American prisons do not have a high school diploma (Stipek, 2014). Overall, the evidence shows the following: • There is no research to support the claim that schools benefit from frequently suspending or expelling their students in response to non-violent and mundane forms of adolescent misbehavior. • Research shows that frequent suspension and expulsion are associated with negative outcomes (Losen, 2011). • There are large disparities by race, gender, and disability status when using these punishments (Losen, 2011). • There are alternatives to suspensions and expulsions that improve student outcomes. Two Success Stories By 2014, California’s Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) implemented Restorative Justice in nearly half of its schools. The effects over time have reduced suspensions, particularly for Black students; closed the discipline gap; and improved academic outcomes (reading levels, dropout rates, graduation rates) when compared to schools that did not implement restorative practices (Jain, Bassey, Brown, & Kalra, 2014). RAND conducted a two-year study that examined the implementation of restorative practices in the Pittsburgh Public School District under the leadership of the International Institute for Restorative Practices . This study represents one of the first randomized controlled trials of the impacts of restorative practices on suspension rates and classroom and school climate (Augustine et al., 2018). The report found: • Restorative practices—inclusive and non-punitive ways to respond to conflict and build community—reduced student suspension in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district. • Restorative practices significantly reduced suspension rates of elementary grade students, Black students, students from low-income families, and female students, more than those not in these groups. • Restorative practices did not improve academic outcomes, nor did they reduce suspensions for middle school students or suspensions for violent offenses. Other school districts can learn important lessons on training, practice, support, and data collections from Pittsburgh when adopting a restorative practices program.   PART II: WHAT CAN WE DO? The following recommendations were compiled from “Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships & Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools” (Advancement Project, 2014) and ”Restorative Justice in Oakland Schools: Implementation and Impacts” (Jain et al., 2014): 1. Establish a team of students, parents/guardians, educators, and community members. 2. Seek input from a range of community stakeholders. 3. Allocate funding for restorative practices at the school and district level. 4. Dedicate time within the school day, such as an advisory period, to practice restorative techniques. 5. Build a greater infrastructure at the district and school levels. 6. Invest in training and coaching for all involved. • Tier 1 involves training everyone in the school. • Tier 2 involves training to facilitate conflict circles to repair harm. • Tier 3 involves training to facilitate circles for youth who have been suspended, incarcerated, or are feeling unwelcome at school. Leverage capacity by empowering a core team of expert staff/students to train the trainers. Involve more parents by familiarizing them with restorative practices at the school and encourage their participation and support for the program. Capitalize on the enormous potential of students to help establish the program. Connect with other districts and schools that use restorative practices.   PART III: HOW DO YOU GET STARTED WITH RESTORATIVE PRACTICES? Administrators and teacher leaders who want to learn more about restorative practices and bring them to their schools and districts can turn to MAEC’s new publication. This guide helps schools use restorative approaches to build relationships and address conflict. Part 1 describes restorative practices and includes basic information about the specific practices and key processes. These tools help people take responsibility for their actions and repair harm when possible. They are specifically used to facilitate community building and address infractions and other incidents. Part 2 provides initial guidance for school leaders to explore and promote restorative practices. Part 3 helps school leaders manage the school-wide adoption of restorative practices. Part 4 provides resources and tools to assist with early implementation of restorative practices. There are links included with all the works cited in the reference section. Getting Started with Restorative Practices in Schools: A Guide for Administrators and Teacher Leaders is available at:   Disclaimer MAEC is committed to the sharing of information regarding issues of equity in education. The contents of this paper were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.   RESOURCES • Facing History and Ourselves. “Taking School Online with a Student-centered Approach” provides strategies for teachers to build community in their classrooms. There are also online resources for educators and students to promote their self-care and relationship building, and over 1,000 content-based resources (including lessons, videos, DVDs, PowerPoints, and teaching strategies) that center around student reflection and dialogue. • The International Institute of Restorative Practices (IIRP) identifies the need for restorative practices with families, the community, and the workplace. They suggest that fair process will be vital during remote working when communication is less direct and more difficult. School leaders should help staff manage stress and engage with them to get their input and share resources more often. IIRP also shares circle questions that teachers can use to encourage their students to reflect and share their feelings on the pandemic. • The Oakland Unified School District. This school district has worked with restorative practices for many years and compiled the following resources: · Videos on how to lead a virtual community building circle · Circle templates and supports · Antiracism resources · A slideshow on how Restorative Practices can be used to create and maintain school community virtually. • Living Justice Press is a nonprofit publisher for restorative justice. Their website includes free webinars, videos, posters, and other materials for sale. • The Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety (SEL Center). Resources include briefs, guides, and a webinar to support districts and schools as they support students during the COVID-19 pandemic. One brief shares strategies of trauma-informed distance learning. • WestEd. “Community-Care Strategies for Schools During the Coronavirus Crisis” offers guidance for educators, school staff, and school leaders to help ensure that school communities are effective, cohesive, collaborative, healthy, and sustainable while coping with the stresses of social isolation, school closures, and changes to how services are provided. The brief builds on a growing research base about school climate and culture. • National Institute of Justice. “Creating and Sustaining Positive School Climate” describes school climate, how it is assessed, outcomes, assessments, and how it can improve. REFERENCES Advancement Project. (2014, March 20). Restorative practices: Fostering healthy relationships & promoting positive discipline in schools. Retrieved from healthy-relationships-promoting-positive-discipline-in-schools/ Augustine, C. H., Engberg, J., Grimm. G.E., Lee, E., Wang, E.L., Christianson, K., & Joseph, A.A. (2018). Can restorative practices improve school climate and curb suspensions?: An evaluation of the impact of restorative practices in a mid-sized urban school district. RAND. Retrieved from Balfanz, R., Byrnes, V., & Fox, J. (2013). Sent Home and Put Off-Track: The Antecedents, Disproportionalities, and Consequences of Being Suspended in the Ninth Grade. Paper presented at the Closing the school discipline gap: research to practice, Washington, DC. Evans, K. R., Lester, J. N., & Anfara Jr., V. A. (2013, May). Restorative Justice in education: What we know so far. Middle School Journal, 44(5), 57–63. Fronius, T., Perrson, H., Guckenburg, S., Hurley, N., & Petrosino, A. (2016, February). Restorative Justice in U.S. schools: A research review. WestEd. Retrieved from Fronius, T., Darling-Hammond, S., Sutherland, H., Guckenburg, S., Hurley. N. & Petrosino, A. (2019). Restorative Justice in U.S. schools: An updated research review. WestEd. Retrieved from research-review/ International Institute for Restorative Practices. (n.d.). What is restorative practices? Retrieved from Jain, S.; Bassey, H.; Brown, M.A.; Kalra, P. (2014, September). Restorative Justice in Oakland schools: Implementation and impacts: An effective strategy to reduce racially disproportionate discipline, suspensions and improve academic outcomes [Report prepared for the Office of Civil Rights: U.S. Department of Education]. Oakland Unified School District. Retrieved from Report revised Final.pdf U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. (2016, October 28). 2013-2014 civil rights data collection, a first look: Key data highlights on equity and opportunity gaps in our nation’s public schools. Retrieved from U.S. Department of Education. (2014, January 8). Remarks of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the release of the joint DOJ-ED school discipline guidance package. Retrieved from U.S. Government Accountability Office. (2018). K-12 education: Discipline disparities for black students, boys, and students with disabilities: Highlights of GAO-18-258, a report to congressional requesters. Retrieved from Weingarten, K. (2003). Common shock: Witnessing violence every day—How we are harmed, how we can heal. New York: Dutton.

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Post Image Socioeconomic Integration from an Equity Perspective

This paper seeks to provide a current overview of socioeconomic school integration and provide a new conceptualization of socioeconomic integration from an equity perspective. What does socioeconomic integration involve? How can it be made to work well within schools to benefit all students? The paper draws upon the insights of a day-long conference of educators, researchers, policymakers, civil rights activists, and staff of the nation’s four federally-funded Equity Assistance Centers, sponsored by the Center for Education Equity (CEE) at MAEC in Washington D.C. earlier this year.

Socioeconomic Integration from an Equity Perspective

Public education’s mission is universal. The purpose of public education is to be the nation’s commons where all students are invited to learn, develop their talents, and acquire the dispositions essential to a secure and thriving democratic public culture. Equity is built into the DNA of public education. And yet too often public schools fall short of this fundamental vision. Too many school districts are divided by class, race, language, culture, or religion. In order to fulfill the essential promise of public education, 100 public school districts and charter schools across the United States have taken conscious efforts to overcome residential segregation by class, race, and/or language so that children from all economic and racial backgrounds can benefit from learning together. Those plans for “socioeconomic integration” seek to bring about the benefits of economic and racial diversity without running afoul of legal requirements that limit the use of race in student assignment. This paper seeks to provide a current overview of socioeconomic school integration and provide a new conceptualization of socioeconomic integration from an equity perspective. What does socioeconomic integration involve? How can it be made to work well within schools to benefit all students? The paper draws upon the insights of a day-long conference of educators, researchers, policymakers, civil rights activists, and staff of the nation’s four federally-funded Equity Assistance Centers, sponsored by the Center for Education Equity (CEE) at MAEC in Washington D.C. earlier this year. I - What is Socioeconomic School Integration? Socioeconomic (SES) school integration is a public policy designed to improve opportunities for students by: 1) reducing the negative educational effects associated with school poverty concentrations, and 2) providing a diverse environment that benefits all students. In 1996, only two school districts, educating 30,000 students, took conscious steps to educate rich and poor in common schools. Today, 100 school districts and charter school chains in 32 states have adopted socioeconomic integration policies. These public schools educate 4.4 million students (Kahlenberg, 2016; Potter & Quick, 2016). School districts promote socioeconomic diversity in schools in various ways. Some change attendance boundaries to ensure a healthier economic mix of students. Some weigh economic status as a factor in magnet school admissions. Some allow student transfers between schools only when they contribute to socioeconomic diversity. Some use “controlled choice” policies which allow families to choose from a variety of options and honor choices with an eye to promoting socioeconomic diversity. To promote sustainable socioeconomic diversity, school districts must create criteria for defining economic advantage and disadvantage. Many districts rely on a student’s eligibility for free or reduced price lunch (185% of the poverty line). Other districts use Census data, such as education level, income, proportion of single parent households, proportion of non-English speaking residents, and proportion of  homeowners in a neighborhood, to categorize students. Whatever the mechanics employed in defining socioeconomic status or the means used to create socioeconomically integrated schools, district officials pursuing these policies believe all children will learn more in diverse environments. II. Why is Socioeconomic Integration Important? School districts adopt socioeconomic integration policies to avoid the negative effects of segregation and to garner the positive benefits of educating students in a diverse student environment. Economic integration policies combined with equitable practices can promote social mobility by helping students gain academic and social skills. Integration policies can promote social cohesion in our multiracial democracy by teaching students of different backgrounds how to get along with and appreciate one another.
  • Social Mobility and Academic Skills Fifty years ago, the congressionally authorized Coleman Report found that the single most important predictor of academic achievement is a child’s socioeconomic status. The second most important predictor is the socioeconomic makeup of the child’s school. While high-poverty schools may occasionally excel, it is extremely uncommon. Douglas Harris of Tulane University has found that majority middle-class schools are 22 times as likely to be consistently high performingas majority low-income schools (Harris, 2007). Harris defines middle-class schools as those with fewer than 50 percent of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and low-income schools as those with 50 percent or more of students eligible for subsidized lunch.Students in middle-class schools perform better in part because middle class students usually have greater home advantages, such as access to food, housing, and health care. These advantages are connected with higher academic achievement. Conversely, concentrated poverty can hinder achievement. The 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test given to fourth graders showed low-income students attending more affluent schools scored substantially higher on math than lowincome students attending high-poverty schools. The gap in their average scores equates to almost two years of learning (Lubienski & Lubienski, 2006).Moreover, low-income students who attended more affluent schools performed more than half a year better, on average, than middle-income students who attended high-poverty schools. Careful studies that controlled for “self-selection bias” also found strong benefits to attending economically-integrated over highpoverty schools (The Century Foundation, 2016). Indeed, a growing body of literature reveals that socioeconomically integrated schools have greater academic achievement results than homogenous schools in terms of receptive language, expressive language, and math (Reid, 2012, Perry & McConney, 2010, Saatcioglu, 2010, Orfield, 2001 & Palardy, 2013).
  • Social Cohesion and an Appreciation for Diversity While American public schools are charged with raising academic achievement and promoting social mobility, they are also expected to promote an American identity, social cohesion, and democratic citizenship. In an increasingly diverse nation, public schools  demonstrate and expose to students what they have in common as Americans. Segregation by race, ethnicity, and class undercuts that goal by increasing the risk of students having discriminatory attitudes and prejudices.For instance, children are at risk of developing stereotypes about racial groups if they live in and are educated in racially isolated settings. Diverse schools, by contrast, can help prevent bias and counter stereotypes (Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006). When school settings include students from multiple racial groups, students become more comfortable with people of other races. This interaction dramatically decreases discriminatory attitudes and prejudices (McGlothlin & Killen, 2005; Rutland, Cameron, Bennett & Ferrell,2005).Numerous studies validate that racial integration in public schools cultivates tolerant adults and good citizens (Wells & Crain, 1994). As Justice Thurgood Marshall noted, “Unless our children begin to learn together, then there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together” (Milliken v. Bradley, 1974). These effects continue after high school. Research confirms that students who attend racially diverse high schools are more likely to live in diverse neighborhoods five years after graduation (Phillips, Rodosky, Muñoz &Larsen, 2009).Extensive research demonstrates that a school’s student body composition has a measurable effect on achievement (Borman & Dowling, 2010; Buttaro, Catsambis, Mulkey & Steelman, 2010; Cookson, 2013)? Among the many positive effects, scholars point to positive peer influence, family engagement, teacher expectations, amount of homework, number of advanced classes, and the degree of school safety (Kahlenberg, 2012; Rumberger & Palardy, 2005).Data on school districts using socioeconomic school integration confirm research findings. In Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example,each school has a distinctive theme or teaching approach. Families rank their preferences among schools and the school district honors choice with a goal of ensuring schools have a mix of rich and poor students. This effort helps forge both social cohesion and socialmobility. In Cambridge, 84 percent of low-income students in 2014 graduated in four years, compared with 65 percent of low-income students in nearby Boston. Likewise, 83 percent of Black students in Cambridge graduated — a rate 17 points higher than Black students in Boston (Kahlenberg, 2015).Genuine socioeconomic integration and equity requires a deep understanding of what makes a great and equitable school and classroom regardless of the background of the students. It does not happen through awkward pronouncements or “siloed” interventions. Schools and school districts that engage in “siloed” and over-simplified analysis will develop policies and practices that fail to address the complexity of creating academically and socially successful socioeconomic learning environments.
III. Moving Forward: How Can Socioeconomic Integration Be Implemented Within Schools To Ensure Equity? Five Practical Steps While a growing body of literature demonstrates that socioeconomic integration does increase greater academic achievement,  understanding the interactive effects of students, schools, families, and communities have yet to be fully explored. In addition, the assumption that socioeconomic diversity alone is the solution for ensuring all children succeed academically and socially raises important questions about the specific needs of English learners, African American, Latino, and American Indian students. This is particularly true when it comes to the central importance of race in determining disparities. To fully understand the complex  interactions of race and other student characteristics, including socioeconomic status, a more complex framework is needed to fully embrace diversity and equity and to ensure that the benefits of socioeconomic diversity can fully be accomplished. What are the principles and practices that can turn the ideal of equitable socioeconomic integration into a living reality? What does socioeconomic integration look like at the school and classroom level? And what can educators do to ensure that socioeconomic integration results in safe, joyous learning environments for all children? Below is a series of specific steps for helping to ensure that equitable socioeconomic integration becomes a reality. Step One: Adhere to and Internalize Basic Principles The first step is a commitment to some basic principles including:  A school’s overall framework should be based on a co-constructed approach between schools, diverse families, and communities where all cultures are elevated and respected. Differences in culture and language should be seen as assets and funds of knowledge. Using an equity-centered model, families and students from diverse backgrounds have an equal voice. • Policies and practices should be aligned with specific needs of students. While the research indicates that students of diverse backgrounds benefit from socioeconomic integration, program offerings must be aligned to effectively teach and assess diverse students, including English Learners, African American, Latino children, and other populations whose academic achievement needs to be addressed to reduce and/or eliminate the achievement gap. • School leaders must set the tone and demonstrate consistent commitment to equity and socioeconomic integration. Leadership is essential to the success of socioeconomic integration and equity. Successful school leadership requires both modeling and implementing equitable practices. On-going supervision, continuous assessment of needs and progress, and working in partnership with teachers and parents are key in effectively meeting overall goals. Teachers need embedded professional learning opportunities to empower them to act as agents of change. On-going culturally competent professional development enables teachers to learn skills and receive support as needed. • Communication with families, community, and the public is essential from the very beginning of this transformation. Families play an essential role for socioeconomic integration to be an effective tool for academic achievement and socioemotional well being. When families feel welcomed and are shared decision-makers regarding their child’s learning, they are more likely to fully participate with educators to develop a strong foundation for sustainability and success. The principles and practices that create a positive learning environment in any school apply to schools that have the courage to integrate themselves socioeconomically. Schools are small societies. Turning the possible tensions that can result from the interactions of many personalities into positive and productive possibilities and opportunities requires leadership, asset-based approaches, planning, inclusion, transparency, teamwork, caring relationships, authentic family and community engagement, and shared benchmarks of success. Step Two: Implement a Suite of Socioeconomic Integration “Equity Tools” No two districts are like, no two schools are alike, and no two classrooms are alike. But that said, there are “Equity Tools” that work in many settings. Here are a few ideas that have proven to be successful.
  • Implement Policies and Practices that Open Pathways to Academic Excellence for All Students: Integrate pre-requisites for academic learning. With this support, teachers can: set achievement targets prior to instruction and make these evident to students; provide students constructive feedback that is nonjudgmental and linked explicitly to the goals for learning; make appropriate instructional adjustments responsive to the assessment data gleaned; and increase students’ capacity for self assessment.
  • Revise Out-dated Curriculum:Building on the strengths of diversity,inclusion, and equity, 21st century curriculum needs to emphasize deep learning, collective effort, reflection, and a lasting respect for others. Students should graduate with understanding and  appreciation of the struggle for human freedom, the power of reason, the beauty of human expression, and the clarity of numbers.
  • Redesign Classroom Environments: Too many of our classrooms are still stuck in the 19th century, despite whiteboards and computers. Today’s digital learners require a new kind of learning environment. One of the surest ways to promote genuine socioeconomic integration is to provide 21st century classrooms.
  • End Rigid Tracking: Segregating students into different tracks often effectively segregates students by race and class. This divides students and works against positive school climates, promoting the myth that some students are more special than others.
  •  Situate Learning in the Lives of Students and Their Families: Teachers should include culturally competent and sustaining elements in all aspects of schooling. Culturally sustaining educators build upon the cultural fluidity and connectedness reflected in the identities of students as an asset to learning and academic achievement. They seek to perpetuate and foster linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism as part of the fabric of schooling.
  • Invest in Embedded Professional Learning Opportunities: Professional learning opportunities must include cultural competency training. Equitable socioeconomic integration requires embedded and ongoing professional development. Without professional learning in cultural competence, performance disparities for low-income students and students of color will continue. It takes real and deep learning to understand the what, why, and how of committing to a student assignment policy that is new and will be at times controversial and challenging.
  • Engage Families and Community Members as Partners: Equity educators advocate for high quality teacher preparation in the context of culturally competent and sustainable integrated schools. Connections with parents and the community at large will facilitate attainment of collaborative partnerships that promote the academic, social, and emotional development of children.
  • Establish Family Information Centers: Families need regular, consistent, and understandable information, not only about their child’s progress, but why the district and school is promoting socioeconomic integration so that it benefits all students. Families should be engaged from the very beginning of this transformation.  
Taken together, these changes can provide fresh and dynamic learning environments for all students. When students are engaged and active, discipline problems diminish and learning increases. These “Equity Tools” represent some structural changes that lead to healthier, more engaging and equitable educational opportunities for all children. Step Three: Understand Student Assets and Address Student Needs At the heart of a great school and classroom is a passionate commitment to learning. We know a good deal about how learning takes place through the convergence of individual, biological, contextual, cultural, and historical factors. Any effort to raise the level of awareness and professionalism about the learning benefits associated with equitable socioeconomic integration would treat as foundational what we know about brain development, attachment, self-regulation, individuality and learning including cognitive load, the limits of working memory and metacognition. Students, especially vulnerable students, come to school carrying with them many stressors. Research has consistently shown that schools that take seriously the socio-emotional development of students create learning environments that lead to a sense of safety and acceptance, increase motivation to learn, and are more likely to be culturally responsive and competent. But this is only half the picture. Vulnerable and low-income students also bring with them many unique assets that are treasures and enrich any school and classroom. They have funds of knowledge that open new vistas of learning for all students. Nationally recognized researcher, Eugene Garcia, provides the following example: When a child comes to school for the first time he/she comes with a little suitcase full of experiences (language & culture) that he/she had before coming to school. The teacher can then say: Welcome, let’s open that little suitcase and see what you have so you can share and we can learn from you or say: This is your suitcase and it is your past. Now you can forget about it and learn new things. What you have is not useful now  Learning environments that open students’ little suitcases of knowledge share certain characteristics including: personalizing and differentiating learning by addressing individuality and difference; addressing the different stages of learning; distinguishing between and addressing short-and long term-learning goals; and ensuring that these goals over time are rigorous, paced appropriately to reach annual goals, and prepare students for college and career success. Step Four: Build a Positive School Culture That Includes Family and Community Positive school culture is the glue that holds a school together and is an indispensable ingredient to an equitable socioeconomic integration design. The elements that contribute to a positive school culture include: a safe and supportive environment, effective school leadership, culturally responsive pedagogy and practice, high quality teachers, rigorous instruction, numerous extracurricular activities, staff collaboration, trust, and college and career readiness. And the bedrock quality of a positive school culture is the inclusion of family and community. Community is a big concept; inclusion means everyone. Creating a positive school culture requires leadership, relationship building, trust, and commitment to academic excellence. The commitment to building a positive and empowering school culture is vital as schools and classrooms are integrated socioeconomically. These schools must confront and overcome systemic racism, the effects of concentrated poverty, and segregated schools in addition to the regular challenges facing all schools such as creating and maintaining a rigorous and vigorous academic climate, a safe and supportive cultural and physical environment, and ensuring the school’s vision is infused in all aspects of its organization and mission. Building a strong school and classroom culture is not magic. We know there are certain policies and practices which increase learning for all students and promote inclusive and supportive school cultures. If we are to address the intersectionality of socioeconomic status, race, gender, national origin, and religion, we need systemic and transformational reforms to prevail over business as usual. Step Five: Promote Reflection and Self Assessment The socio-economic integration of schools will take time and will no doubt grow through trial and error. We are used to the concept that students should be regularly assessed about their academic progress. What we are less accustomed to is the idea that adults should reflect on their practices and adjust them according to what is working and what is not. Adults in the school must believe or come to believe that it is possible to provide an equitable learning environment and work relentlessly to remove barriers to this socioeconomic integration. Equity is not easy to achieve in part because the definition of equity itself evolves as efforts to implement policies and practices unfold. Purposeful organizational and cultural evolution that is inclusive and inviting opens up the possibility that difference will be embraced naturally and with a minimum of conflict. By embracing diversity and, by recognizing the worth of all people, schools can change from the inside-out in a genuine organic way and help recapture the foundational purpose of public education. *By Richard D. Kahlenberg, Peter W. Cookson, Jr., Susan Shaffer, Charo Basterra. Edited by Phoebe Schlanger. REFERENCES Borman G.D. & Dowling M. (2010). Schools and inequality: A multilevel analysis of Coleman’s equality of educational opportunity data. Teachers College Record, Vol. 112(5), 1201-1246. Buttaro, A., Catsambis, S., Mulkey, L., and Steelman, L. C. (2010). An organizational perspective on the origins of instructional segregation: School composition and use of within-class ability grouping in American Kindergartens. Teachers College Record, Vol. 112(5), pp. 1300 – 1337. Cookson, Jr., P. W. (2013). Class rules: Exposing inequality in American high schools. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. Harris, D. (2007). High-flying schools, student disadvantage, and the logic of NCLB. American Journal of Education, Vol. 113(3), pp. 367–94. Kahlenberg, R. D. (2012). From all walks of life: New hope for school integration. American Educator, (Winter), pp. 2-40. Retrieved from Kahlenberg, R.D. (2015, September 8). A new era of civil rights: Proposals to address the economic inequalities in Robert Putnam's "Our Kids”. Century Foundation, (Figure 6). Retrieved from Kahlenberg, R.D. (2016, October 14). School integration in practice: Lessons from nine districts. In The Century Foundation, Stories of Integration (pp. 3-7). Retrieved from Lubienski, C., and Lubienski. S. T. (2006). Charter, private, public schools and academic achievement: New evidence from NAEP mathematics data. New York, NY: National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, Teachers College, Columbia University. McGlothlin, H. and Killen, M. (2005). Children’s perceptions of intergroup and intragroup similarity and the role of social experience. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Vol. (26)6, pp. 680–698. Milliken v. Bradley, 414 U.S. 717, 783 (1974) (Justice Marshall, dissenting). Orfield, G. (2001). Schools more separate: Consequences of a decade of resegregation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Civil Rights Project. Palardy, G. J. (2013). High school socioeconomic segregation and student attainment. American Education Research Journal, Vol. 50(4), pp. 714-554. doi: 10.3102/0002831213481240. Perry, L. and McConney, A. (2010). Does the SES of the school matter? An examination of socioeconomic status and student achievement using PISA 2003. Teachers College, Vol. 112(4), pp. 1137-1162. Pettigrew, T.F., and Tropp, L.R. (2006). A Meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. (90)5, pp. 751–783. Phillips, K. J. R., Rodosky, R. J., Muñoz, M. A., and Larsen, E. S. (2009). Integrated schools, integrated futures? A case study of school desegregation in Jefferson County, Kentucky. In C. E. Smrekar and E. B. Goldring, (Eds.), From the Courtroom to the Classroom: The Shifting Landscape of School Desegregation (pp. 239). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Potter, H., Quick, K., and Davies, E. (2016, February 9). A new wave of school integration: Districts and charters pursuing socioeconomic diversity. The Century Foundation. Retrieved from Reid, J. L. (2012). Socioeconomic diversity and early learning: The missing link in policy for high quality preschools. In R. D. Kahlenberg (Ed.), The future of school integration: Socioeconomic diversity as an education reform strategy (pp. 67–126). New York, NY: Century Foundation Press. Rumberger, R. W., and Palardy, G. J., (2005). Does segregation still matter? The impact of social composition on academic achievement in southern high schools. Teachers College Record, Vol. 107(9), pp. 2015-2022. Rutland, A., Cameron, L., Bennett, L., and Ferrell, J. (2005). Interracial contact and racial constancy: A multi-site study of racial intergroup bias in 3–5 year old Anglo-British children. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Vol. (26)6, pp. 699–713. Saatcioglu, A. (2010). Disentangling school- and student-level effects of desegregation and resegregation on the dropout problem in urban high schools: Evidence from the Cleveland municipal school district, 1977-1998. Teachers College Record, Vol. 112(5), pp. 1391-1442. The Century Foundation. (2016, February 10). The benefits of socioeconomically and racially integrated school rooms (Adapted from Wells, A. S., Fox, L., and Cordova-Cobo, D. (2016).How racially diverse schools and classrooms can benefit all students. The Education Digest,Vol. (82)1, pp. 17-24; and Khalenberg, R.D., and Potter, H. (2014). A smarter charter: Finding what works for charter schools and public education. New York, NY: Teachers College Press). Retrieved from Wells, A. S. and Crain, R. L. (1994). Perpetuation theory and the long-term effects of school desegregation. Review of Educational Research, Vol. (64)4, pp. 531–555.  

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