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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 Assessing and Enhancing School Climate and Culture

Part of MAEC’s Boosting Success for 21st Century Learners Webinar Series, this webinar provides participants with an overview of research concerning school climate and connectedness, tools to assess current school climate, and resources to create and maintain a positive school climate. This session was originally held on September 25, 2012. Presenter:  Michelle Nutter, Safe and Supportive Schools Manager, Pennsylvania Center for Safe Schools; Pennsylvania State Equity Coordinator, The Mid-Atlantic Equity Center Description: As schools face increasing pressure to ensure the academic success of all students, these efforts must be guided by a greater emphasis on student connectedness.  In order to perform academically, students must feel safe, respected and connected to the adults and other students in their school.  By focusing on creating a positive, welcoming school climate, schools stress the importance of belonging.  By enhancing students’ connectedness to schools, students are more likely to stay in school and be engaged in their education. Learning Outcomes

  • Participants will recognize the important connection between school climate and academic achievement.
  • Participants will understand the difference between school climate and school culture.
  • Participants will identify ways to increase student connectedness.

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  

Download: Exploring Equity - Building Relationships with Students

Post Image Collaborative Inquiry, Cultural Proficiency, and Racially Diverse Learners

This piece, part of our Addressing Critical Issues series, introduces collaborative inquiry and provides examples of how diverse groups of educators have shown the impact of using it to improve the performance of racially diverse learners.

Collaborative Inquiry, Cultural Proficiency, and Racially Diverse Learners

Disaggregated data illustrate persistent patterns of disproportionality in academic and behavioral achievement among racially and culturally diverse learners (Huffman & Kalnin, 2003. Malarkey, 2007; Fashola, 2005).Overcoming conditions contributing to such gaps in achievement is a shared priority for 21st century educators. In order to respond to this pattern, practitioners and scholars are beginning to identify and connect with often unrecognized assets that are inherent to their students’ natures and integral to their capabilities. Gradually, through use of collaborative inquiry, more attention is being given to discover what it takes to use data as a bridge to educational practice that is better aligned with capacities that today’s students bring into the classroom. As a result of using this framework, educator responses to disaggregated data are focusing more frequently on internal exploration and critical analysis that builds capacity for cultural competence and culturally responsive pproaches. Productive collaborative inquiry (Love et al., 2008) is accomplished through constructive use of non‐judgmental (Comer, 1999), yet accountability‐focused (Fullan, 1993, 2005; Lindsey, Roberts & Campbelljones, 2005), equity‐centered (Singleton & Linton, 2006) models of practice. This paradigm presents a unique course of action that leads to overcoming the gaps in educators’ capacities in providing equitable learning opportunities that successfully engage racially and culturally diverse learners, contributing to gains in academic performance. A significant, yet partial response to this challenge can be found in the well established research base that illustrates the link between collaboration, teacher reflective practice and student learning (Little, 1990; Louis, Kruse, & Marks, 1996; McLaughlin & Talbert, 2001). According to this body of work, when teachers engage in ongoing collaborative inquiry focused on teaching, learning and effective use of data, they improve results for students. Beyond this approach, recent work builds on such established practice by using data more strategically to transform teaching and learning practices for racially diverse learners (Love et al., 2008). Guided by this paradigm,  collaborative, reflective practice to close racial achievement gaps isimplemented by keeping the focus on equity, strengthening the powerful effectiveness of professional learning communities and using data as a catalyst for powerful conversations about race/ethnicity, class, educational status, and teacher‐student performance. Collaborative inquiry holds promise to closing the achievement gap among racially diverse learners. In considering collaborative inquiry and race, Nancy Love, Franklin Campbelljones and others provide a framework of implementation that establishes a bridge to instructional practice to reduce the achievement gap among racially diverse learners using and linking collaborative inquiry through systematic use of an equity lens. The work forged by Nancy Love, et al. presents a foundation for collaborative inquiry that lies in four core competencies for high capacity data use. They include (1) data literacy and collaborative inquiry (2) content knowledge and pedagogical skill (3) cultural proficiency, and (4) facilitative leadership skills. This embedded application of cultural proficiency explicitly takes into consideration issues of race and other diversity factors. Cultural proficiency (the ability to interact knowledgeably and respectfully with people of diverse cultural backgrounds) views achievement gaps as solvable challenges, not as inevitable, insurmountable conflict‐bearing consequences rooted from student backgrounds. The cultural proficiency mindset generates solutions that reflect an understanding of diverse student strengths, values, and perspectives, and tap efficacy in culturally competent educators. In turn, a more effective vehicle emerges for mediating cultural conflict while promoting productive teacher‐student engagement. Essentially, the collaborative inquiry process entails synthesized use of five critical elements including (1) distributed leadership and capacity (2) collaborative teams (3) frequent, in‐depth data use (4) instructional improvement focus, and (5) collaborative culture committed to equity and trust. In this paradigm, there is ongoing dialogue about race, class, and privilege in relation to education, teaching and learning. Collaborative inquiry offers a medium for responding to the needs of racially diverse learners by shifting away from culturally destructive, inadequate or colorblind tendencies (i.e.counterproductive, fixed barriers). Instead, more emphasis is placed on the belief that all children (and educators), notwithstanding socio‐cultural background, are capable of high achievement (and performance). Such educator responses to racially diverse learners are made from transformed mindsets, shifting toward those that are culturally pre‐competent, competent or culturally proficient (i.e. on‐going,capacity‐building bridges). The examples that follow delineate how diverse groups of educators have shown the impact of using collaborative inquiry and equity‐entered practice to improve the performance of racially diverse learners. CANTON CITY, OH In Canton City, Ohio, four middle schools, serving 66 to 82 percent poor students and 30 to 45 percent African American students, increased the percentage of students scoring proficient or above on the Sixth‐Grade Ohio Proficiency Test in mathematics between 2002–03 and 2004–05. On the Ohio Seventh‐ and Eighth‐Grade Achievement Tests, all student groups, including all racial groups, students with special needs, and those receiving free‐and‐reduced lunch made gains (Ohio Department of Education, 2005, 2006). In addition, the percentage of Canton City high school students earning proficient or above on the Tenth‐Grade Ohio Graduation Test in mathematics increased by 25 percentage points from 2004 to 2006. As in grades 7 and 8, all student groups made progress (Ohio Department of Education, 2006). For example, the percentage of African American students passing the Ohio Graduation Test in mathematics increased by 74 percent from 2004 to 2006 (Ohio Department of, 2006). Teachers created a culture committed to analyzing data to improve instruction, honoring students through culturally responsive teaching, collaborating with each other to create excellence in instruction, and empowering each other to implement a collective vision and mission centered on a commitment to equity, collaborative team‐building and trust. LOS ANGELES, CA An urban elementary school with a primarily African American population with over 80% on free and reduced lunch, went from needs improvement to receiving a state achievement award by building leadership capacity, engaging in structured collaboration, and developing an equity lens for analyzing data. Within a four‐year period, 54th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles, went from a school in Needs Improvement to becoming the recipient of the California Achievement Award. Grade level teams engaged in collaborative inquiry as a part of the regular day. The teachers were able to sustain this culture and their vision through three principals. In both of these school districts, educators in a variety of roles, discovered and used tools to analyze data and transform an unhealthy culture into a high‐functioning one by increasing awareness of the assumptions and cultural lenses brought to data interpretation. Within the context of their respective processes, they tapped into the power of collaborative inquiry and cultural proficiency to broaden their cultural lens and strengthen their educational practice to become more effective in educating racially diverse learners. REFERENCES 
  • Campbelljones, B., & Campbelljones F. (2002). Educating African American children: Credibility at a cross roads. Educational Horizons, 80(3), 133‐139.
  •  Comer, James P. "Educating Poor Minority Children." Scientific American 259 (5) (November, 1988): 42‐48.
  •  Fashola, O.S. Ed.(2005). Educating African American Males: Voices from the field. Thousand Oakes, CA Corwin Press.
  •  Fullan, M. (2005). Leadership and Sustainability. System thinkers in action. Thousand Oakes, CA; Corwin Press
  •  Harris, S. (2013) Collaborative Inquiry A Success Story: 54th Street Elementary School, Los Angeles. Paper presented at Learning Forward Conference, Dallas Texas
  •  Huffman, D., & Kalnin, J. (2003). Collaborative Inquiry to Make Data‐based Decisions in Schools. Teaching & Education 19, 569‐580
  •  Lindsey R.B., Roberts, L.M., & Campbelljones, F. (2005). The culturally proficient school: an Implementation guide for school leaders. Thousand Oakes, CA;Corwin Press
  •  Little, J. W. (1990). Teachers as colleagues. In A. Lieberman (Ed.), Schools as collaborative cultures: Creating the future now (pp. 165–193). New York: Palmer.
  •  Love, N. (Ed.) (2004) Taking data to new depths. Journal of Staff Development, 25(4), 22‐26.
  •  Love, N., Stiles, K., Mundry, S., & DiRanna, K. (2008) Unleashing the Power of Collaborative Inquiry: The Data Coach’s Guide to Improving Learning for all Students.
  •  Louis, K. S., Kruse, S., &Marks, H. (1996). Schoolwide professional community.
  •  F. Newmann & Associates (Eds.), Authentic achievement: Restructuring schools for intellectual quality (pp. 179–203). San Francisco: Jossey‐Bass.
  •  Malarkey, T. (2007).“We’ve Carried a Lot”: Addressing Equity and Advocating for School Change as a Collaborative Inquiry Team. University of California, Berkeley. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (Chicago, April 2007) as part of a Division K Symposium,”Inside Teacher Professional Community: Challenges and Accomplishment
  •  McLaughlin, M.W., & Talbert, J. (2001). Professional communities and the work of high school teaching. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  •  Ohio Department of Education. (2003). Canton City School District 2002–2003 school year report card. Retrieved August 6, 2007, from–2003/DIST/043711.pdf
  •  Ohio Department of Education. (2005a). Canton 2004–2005 school year report card. Retrieved August 6, 2007, from–2005/DIST/043711.pdf
  •  Ohio Department of Education. (2006). Canton City School District: 2005–2006 school year report card. Retrieved August 6, 2007, from–2006/DIST/043711.pdf
  •  Senge, P. et al.(2000). Schools that learn: A fifth discipline fieldbook for educators, parents and everyone that cares about education. New York: Doubleday/Currency.
  •  Singleton, G. E., & Linton, C. (2006). Courageous conversations about race: A field guide for achieving equity in schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
  •  Wellman, B., & Lipton, L. (2004). Data‐driven dialogue: A facilitator’s guide to collaborative inquiry. Sheman, CT: Mira Via

Download: Collaborative Inquiry, Cultural Proficiency, and Racially Diverse Learners

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 Disproportionality, Discipline, and Race

This piece, part of our Addressing Critical Equity Issues series, discusses the racial disproportionality in discipline and provides promising practices to address it.

Disproportionality, Discipline and Race

Racial disproportionality in discipline can be defined as the overrepresentation of children of color that are subject to discipline,suspension and/or expulsion as compared to the total population of children in the community or institution (NCCREST, 2009). Current trends, nationwide, show that when it comes to school discipline, African American students are suspended two to three times more frequently than other students. Similarly, they are overrepresented in office referral, expulsion and corporal punishment (Skiba, et al, 2011, Duncan, 2010, Kim 2010). The problem of disproportionality has been particularly controversial surrounding “zero tolerance” and “one-strike you are out”. The longevity and severity of the challenge begs the question of why the persistent disproportionality patterns applied to African American students persists. In the face of broad disparities in disciplinary exclusion, questions are raised about the root causes of behavioral problems, the culture of educational environments, and norms that may be consciously or unconsciously more hostile to some groups than others. System-wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS or SWPBS) is a wellestablished systemic and data-driven approach to improving school learning environments. Its emphasis is on changing underlying attitudes and policies concerning how behavior is addressed. The behavior support systems encourage “school connectedness” and “caring and trusting relationships” between teachers and students. Overall, the programs try to increase students’ positive experience of schooling and to move away from a reliance on punitive reactions to misbehavior (Skiba, Lassenet, et al. 2006, Vincent, 2008). Yet universal approaches to educational practice have frequently been critiqued for not specifically addressing the racial dynamics, economic obstacles or other influences on the racial discipline gap (Goldstein & Noguera, 2006). In fact, one study of an otherwise successfully implemented PBIS system demonstrated that Black and Latino students nevertheless received more severe punishment for the category of minor misbehavior and concluded that one cannot assume that interventions intended to improve behavior will be effective to the same degree for all groups (Losen, 2011). Overall, the importance of considering culture when implementing these schoolwide models cannot be overemphasized (Townsend, 2000). Large racial differences in suspension rates raise questions about whether training to improve classroom management skills might be more effective for more African American students if it included components of multicultural sensitivity to broaden teachers’ awareness that implicit bias may affect how they discipline their students (Losen, 2011). While explanations for disproportionality vary considerably, a growing body of literature is suggesting that lack of cultural competency and classroom management are especially important factors contributing to disproportionality (Skiba et al, 2006, Texas Appleseed, 2008). According to the Disproportionality in Disciplinary Action in Public Education Literature Review submitted by Shore Research, Inc. (February 2012), the preponderance of recommendations found in the literature are for educators and policy makers to: 1. develop culturally responsive instructional and classroom management strategies and train teachers in those strategies. 2. develop clear definitions of disproportionality and analyze individual school data to determine if/where disproportionality exists. 3. incorporate disaggregated data systems that are analyzed with culturally competent data analysis; and balance zero tolerance policies and consideration of students’ intentions for misbehavior. PROMISING PRACTICES PUBLICATIONS
  • Duncan, A. (2010). Crossing the Next Bridge: Remarks Delivered by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan on the 45th Anniversary of "Bloody Sunday", Edmund Pettus Bridge. Selma, AL: U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from:
  • Kim, Y.K., Losen, D.J., & Hewitt, D.T. (2010). The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform. New York, NY: New York University Press. 1 (citing National Center for Schools and Communities, (2003). Equity or Exclusion: the Dynamics of Resources, Demographics, and Behavior in the New York City Public Schools. Fordham University, available at data/files/EQUITY_OR_EXCLUSION.pdf.).
  • Losen, D.L. & Skiba, R.J. (2010, September). Suspended Education: Urban Middle Schools in Crisis. Los Angeles, CA: The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. Retrieved from:
  • Daniel J. Losen (2011). Discipline, policies, successful schools, and racial justice. Boulder, CO: The Civil Rights Project National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from:
  • United States Department of Education (2010). Important Changes to Civil Rights Data Collection. Washington, DC: United States Department of Education. Retrieved from
  • Vincent, C. (2008). Do Schools Using SWIS Take Advantage of the School Ethnicity Report? OSEP Technical Assistance Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Retrieved from
  • Zehr, M. (2010, December). Obama administration targets ‘disparate impact’ of school discipline. Education Week, 30(7). Retrieved from
  • Bradshaw, C. P., Mitchell, M. M., O’Brennan, L. M., & Leaf, P. J. (2010). Multilevel exploration of factors contributing to the overrepresentation of Black students in office disciplinary referrals. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(2), 508-520, 514
  • Lassenet, S.R. et al. (2006).The relationship of school-wide positive behavior support to academic achievement in an urban middle school. Psychology in the Schools, 43, 701-712.
  • Minow, M. (2010). In Brown’s Wake: Legacies of America’s Educational Landmark, (pp. 69- 79). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Noguera, P.A. (2001). Finding safety where we least expect it: the role of social capital. In W. Ayers, B. Dohrn, & R. Ayers, (Eds.). Preventing School Violence, in Zero Tolerance: Resisting the Drive for Punishment in Our Schools (pp. 204-205).New York, NY: The New Press.
  • Shore Research, Inc ( 2012). Disproportionality in disciplinary action in public education literature review (pp. 1-15). Austin, TX: Shore Research Inc.
  • Skiba, R.J., Horner, R.H., Chung, C, Rauch, K.M., May, S.L., and 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.
  • Townsend, B. L. (2000). The disproportionatediscipline of African American learners: Reducing school suspension and expulsion. Exceptional Children, 66(3), 381-391

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Post Image English Learners & Disproportionality in Special Education

This piece, part of our Addressing Critical Equity Issues series, discusses the overrepresentation of English Learners (ELs) in special education classes and provides promising practices to address it.

English Learners & Disproportionality in Special Education

The overrepresentation of English Learners (ELs) in special education classes is one of the critical issues affecting this group of students. Research indicates that one of the factors affecting this overrepresentation of ELs is the difficulty educators have distinguishing students who truly have special education needs from students who are learning English as a second language (Artiles & Klingner, 2006). ELs are disadvantaged by the scarcity of appropriate valid and reliable assessment instruments and a lack of personnel trained to conduct culturally valid educational assessments. ELs who need special education services are further negatively impacted by the shortage of special education teachers and/or specialists who are trained to address their language and disability needs simultaneously. The identification of ELs in special education is quite complex because linguistic and immigration factors compound cultural, socioeconomic, and other influences (Klingner, Artiles, & Mendez-Barletta, 2006). For example, determining whether an EL is struggling with reading because of a learning disability or factors associated with language acquisition is particularly challenging (Klingner et al. 2008). Artiles et al. (2005) conducted research regarding special education placement patterns of subpopulations of ELs in urban districts in California and noted significant overrepresentation when they examined data by grade, special education category, and language program (straight English immersion, modified English immersion, bilingual), and level of English proficiency. Findings showed that older ELs were more likely to be overrepresented than younger ELLs. Researchers also found that ELs in straight English immersion programs were more likely to be identified than their peers in modified immersion and bilingual programs. Finally, findings demonstrated that students whose language proficiency tests indicated that they were limited in both Spanish and English were more likely to be placed in special education than ELs with higher scores in their native language (Hoover & Klingner, 2011). Legal provisions provide a framework for providing ELs with disabilities with appropriate services for both their English language acquisition and specific disability. Ortiz & Yates(2001) recommend the following practices aligned with current legislation: • Prevention and early intervention services to avoid unnecessary special education referrals. • Referral processes that distinguish struggling learners from students who are likely to have disabilities. • Assessments conducted by qualified bilingual evaluators who use culturally valid instruments and procedures appropriate for ELs and provide accurate data about native language and English language performance. • Use of interpreters for non-English speaking parents. • Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that are culturally and linguistically relevant and that describe how services for English language acquisition and academic instruction will be provided simultaneously. In addition, Hoover & Klingner (2011) also recommend keeping in mind the following when assessing ELs for potential learning disabilities: • Use alternative ways of assessing students’ strengths to determine the upper limits of their potential. • Conduct observations of student in different settings as part of any evaluation. • Pay greater attention to cultural and affective considerations when evaluating students (e.g., sources of potential conflict, motivation). • Give greater attention to students’ native language and the role of language acquisition when determining whether a student may have a learning disability. • Consider that weak auditory processing skills could indicate language acquisition issues rather than a cognitive processing disorder or learning disability. • Evaluate students in their first language as well as English to determine predictors of reading achievement. • Evaluate each assessment device prior to its use with ELs to make certain that it is appropriate for the population for which it is used. Interpret assessment scores relative to learners’ experiential backgrounds and English language proficiency levels to put results into a meaningful and relevant context. PROMISING PRACTICES  PUBLICATIONS REFERENCE
  • Artiles, A., Rueda, R., Salazar, J.J., Higareda, I. (2005). Within-group diversity in minority disproportionate representation: English Language Learners in urban school districts. Exceptional Children, 71(3), 283-300.
  • Artiles, A. & Klingner, J. (2006). Forging a knowledge base on English language learners with special needs: Theoretical, population, and technical issues. Teachers College Record, 108(11) 2187-2194.
  • Hoover, J., & Klingner, J. (2011). In Basterra, M., Trumbull, E., & Solano-Flores, G. (Eds). Cultural Validity in Assessment: Addressing Linguistic and Cultural Diversity (143-167). New York, NY: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.
  •  Klingner, J., Artiles, A., & Mendez-Barletta, L. (2006). English language learners who struggle with reading: Language acquisition or learning disabilities? Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39(2), 108-128. doi:10.1177/00222194060390020101
  •  Klingner, J.K., Hoover, J.J., & Baca, L.M. (2008). Why do English language learners struggle with reading? Distinguishing language acquisition form learning disabilities. Thousand Oaks, CA; Corwin Press.
  •  Ortiz, A.A., & Yates, J.R. (2001). A framework for serving English language learners with disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 14(2), 72-80.

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Post Image Ensuring a Safe and Inclusive School Environment for LGBTQ Students

How can we affirm and support LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer) students and their families in schools? Although a lot of progress has been made in shifting public opinion in the last decade, LGBTQ students still face high incidents of bullying, harassment, and discrimination. What can educators do to support these students and ensure they are given every opportunity to succeed? In this webinar, hear from presenters as they share diverse perspectives and strategies on how to create safe and positive school environments to protect the civil rights and socio-emotional well-being of LGBTQ students. Learning Outcomes

  • Strategies, best practices, and policy recommendations to ensure a safe and supportive school climate regardless of a student’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
  • The law and how it covers LGBTQ students.
  • Resources available to administrators, educators, and families to better support the needs of LGBTQ youth to improve student learning.
  • Neena Chaudhry, Director of Education and Senior Counsel, National Women’s Law Center
  • Deborah Bradley and Stephen Hamilton, Parents of Transgender Daughter and Parent Group Facilitators (MA)
  • Jabari Lyles, Executive Director, GLSEN Maryland
  • Christian McCormick, Transgender Student, Lafayette High School (KY)
Presented by the Center for Education Equity (CEE) at MAEC in partnership with the Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA).   Video of Ensuring a Safe and Inclusive School Environment for LGBTQ Students from MAEC.

Post Image Equity Audit

MAEC, Inc. developed its Equity Audit to offer districts, schools, and teachers a way to develop a more concrete understanding of what it means to practice equity, and reflect on whether current school policies, procedures and practices are equitable. Unlike a regular organizational audit, MAEC’s Equity Audit critically examines policies, programs, and practices that directly or indirectly impact students or staff relative to their race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, color, disability, age, sexual orientation, sexual identity, religion, or other socio-culturally significant factors. These tools are meant to provide a birds-eye view of various aspects of equity and highlight many systemic barriers to equity that might exist. Read more about the publication and download it here.

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.

Download: Introduction to Restorative Practices_ An equitable approach

Post Image Race and Racism: Encouraging Understanding and Dialogue to Support the Healthy Development of Students

There has been an increase in the number of incidences regarding racism and bigotry. Educators may not be equipped to help children process these events and make sense of the changing world around them. In this webinar, educators and parents will gain an understanding of how the construct of race is developed in young children. They will also be provided with strategies for discussing race and incidents of bias with students. The webinar will also review the role that educators play in providing a safe environment for children to explore their differences in a positive way. Learning Outcomes In this webinar participants will:

  • Learn how children develop racial awareness and develop attitudes of race.
  • Identify strategies that parents can employ to support children dealing with issues of race.
  • Gain an understanding about anti-bias training for different age groups.
  • Learn best practices for bringing stakeholders together to support the positive social emotional development of students.
  • Maria (Charo) del Rosario Basterra,Vice President, Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium
  • Karmen Rouland, Associate Director,Center for Education Equity, Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium
  • Jinnie Spiegler, Director of Curriculum, Anti-Defamation League
  • Jason Sirois, Director, No Place for Hate,Anti-Defamation League
Download Video of Race and Racism: Encouraging Understanding and Dialogue to Support the Healthy Development of Students from MAEC.

Post Image School Climate Checklist – Discipline

This tool helps schools determine if they are following the guiding principles developed by the Department of Education regarding improving school climate and equitable disciplinary practices.

Download: School Climate Checklist - Discipline

Post Image Socioeconomic Integration and Student Achievement

Students thrive when they learn in both culturally and economically diverse environments. Is your district struggling with segregation issues that undermine the achievement of your students? This webinar is intended for all educators who want to learn about transforming their schools into socially inclusive learning environments by embracing socioeconomic integration. Hear about schools and districts that have been successful, and learn about CEE’s vision to boost student achievement by applying an equity perspective to this process. Learning Outcomes In this webinar you will learn:

  • why socioeconomic integration has worked in specific districts and how you can apply those principles to your school or district, and
  • how to build learning communities where culture, language, and economic diversity is celebrated and expands learning.
Presenters Download   Video of Socioeconomic Integration and Student Achievement from MAEC.    

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.  

Download: Socioeconomic Integration from an Equity Perspective

Post Image Teacher Behaviors that Encourage Student Persistence – Equity Audit

  This tool helps teachers measure their strengths in encouraging students' persistence in learning and marking areas for self-improvement. To download this, and the other Equity Audit tools, please go to MAEC's Equity Audit page.

Download: Teacher Behaviors that Encourage Student Persistence-2020-accessible

Post Image Using Data Inquiry to Advance Equity

Engaging in data inquiry through an equity lens can help us better understand problems of practice - and identify solutions - that make schools more equitable. This webinar demonstrates the benefits of putting equity at the center of data use in schools and shares the publication that the Center for Education Equity (CEE) created to support districts and schools to engage in data inquiry. Presenters  include members of a data inquiry team in Massachusetts who are using CEE’s Data Inquiry Guide for Exploring Equity Issues and Solutions in their school district. Learning Outcomes:

  • Processes and tools to identify equity while generating effective solutions; and
  • How to access and use CEE’s The Data Inquiry Guide for Exploring Equity Issues and Solutions​​​​​
  • Susan Mundry Senior Program Director at WestEd; author of The Data Coach's Guide to Improving Learning for All Students
  • Susan Villani Senior Program Associate at WestEd; lead author of CEE’s Data Inquiry Guide for Exploring Equity Issues and Solutions;
  • Dawn Bentley Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, MA;
  • Dana Labb Principal of the Blanchard Memorial Elementary School, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, MA;
  • ​​​​​​​David Green  High School Social Studies Teacher, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, MA;
  • Heather Haines ​​​​​​​K-6 Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator, Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, MA.
  Video of Using Data Inquiry to Advance Equity from MAEC. Speaker 1: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Today's conference will begin in a moment. Please continue standing by and thank you, everyone for your patience. Speaker 1: (Silence). Nyla Bell: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Using Data Inquiry to Advance Equity webinar. Our webinar presenters for today will be Susan Mundry, she's a Senior Program Director at WestEd. Susan Villani, she's a Senior Program Associate at WestEd and for the Center for Education Equity at MAEC. Dawn Bentley, she is Assistant Superintendent for Student Services for the Acton-Boxborough regional school district in Massachusetts. Dana Labb, she's a Principal at the Blanchard Memorial elementary school, also at the Acton-Boxborough regional school district. David Green, he's a Social Studies Department Chairperson at the Acton-Boxborough regional high school and Acton-Boxborough regional school district. And last but not least is Heather Haines, she's a K-6 Mathematics Curriculum Coordinator for the Acton-Boxborough regional school district. Nyla Bell: Your facilitator today will be me. I'm Nyla Bell. I'm the Senior Education Equity Specialist at the Center for Education Equity at MAEC and Pamela MacDougall, she serves as our IT facilitator. You won't see her face, but you may see her name pop up in your chat or Q&A box, which we will discuss momentarily. She's a Research Assistant with Learning Innovations at WestEd. Nyla Bell: Today's webinar is being hosted by the Center for Education Equity (CEE). CEE is a project of MAEC Inc. in partnership with WestEd and the American Institutes for Research. CEE is one of four regional equity assistance centers funded by the U.S. Department of Education under Title IV of the Civil Rights act of 1964. Nyla Bell: CEE serves Region I, covering states from Maryland all the way up to Maine and Puerto Rico and The Virgin Islands. CEE's goals are to improve and sustain the systemic capacity of public education systems to address problems caused by segregation and inequity, and to increase equitable educational opportunities for all students, regardless of race, gender, religion, and national origin. CEE serves to provide technical assistance and training to states, district, schools and community-based organizations within Region I at the request of school boards and other responsible governmental agencies. Nyla Bell: This webinar is part of a monthly series that CEE publishes called "Exploring Equity Issues," and each issue includes a brief. Sometimes webinars, practitioner blog, and sometimes the community of practice. Nyla Bell: For today's webinar we ask that the audience, you all listening and joining us today, to use the Q&A box if you have any questions. Feel free to type in your questions at any point during the webinar, we will pause at various points to answer them. You can also use the chat box to share your comments and/or to engage other participants during the webinar. At the end of the webinar, we were asking you to complete a brief survey. The survey will pop up in a window after the webinar concludes. On the occasion when a website is referenced during the presentation, a link to the website may be posted in the chat box for you to copy and explore after the webinar concludes. And then lastly, for those that need it, closed captioning services can be accessed using the box on the right-hand side of your screen. Nyla Bell: At this time, it's my pleasure to turn the presentation over to Susan Mundry. Susan Mundry: Thank you, Nyla and good afternoon to all of our participants. Welcome. We're delighted today to share with you some processes and tools that we've developed that are particularly helpful in identifying equity issues and problems related to equity. When sometimes you might not even know they're related to equity, but then to examine them and generate some effective solutions. We'll be talking about how we've done that with data teams. And I am especially delighted that we will hear from the Acton-Boxborough regional school district in Massachusetts that has engaged in this work and learn from their experience. I will also provide you with some information on the tool kit that the Center for Educational Equity has developed that you can use to explore equity issues and solutions in your own sites. Susan Mundry: So we're hoping that it's beneficial to you and that you can gain from our experience and from our tools. I will give a brief overview of the rationale and the making the case for why we advocate for putting equity at the center of data use, and then turn it over to my colleague, Susan Villani, who will introduce the tool kit that we developed, and then engage in dialogue with Acton-Boxborough team to share their experiences with all of you. The work that we are doing is really aimed at several outcomes that are all in the service of better meeting student needs and better serving all students. By engaging educators and using data inquiry, where they dig deep into questions about current practice and policies and how they may influence outcomes, but in putting an equity lens on that inquiry, we are able to strengthen the capacity of our faculty and other stakeholders, family members, community members for identifying problems and beginning to solve problems, think about how we address them. Susan Mundry: This type of inquiry deepens understanding of what is an equitable school and classroom. And in some ways, the reason why I like to talk about it as an equity lens is we learn to see things that maybe were hidden to us. We didn't notice before because we weren't really looking for equity. Third, the data teams use lots of sources of data, not just school data, but input from families, student voices, so that they get a more complete picture of some of the inequities that may exist in the school. And then there's some sort of dispositions that really come out in the process of using data with an equity lens. One is that people learn to presume positive intentions, and I'll touch on that in a little bit, open their eyes to hidden inequities and build ownership for really solving this problem. Susan Mundry: We think that addressing, looking at your data systematically with an equity lens really helps to bring up some of these strengths that we need to better serve all students. With respect to the first point of strengthening our capacity for problem solving, the approach that we have developed and are using through the Center for Educational Equity is to engage data teams and using a data inquiry process that starts with identifying potential issues of problems that may be going on in your school or district. People ask themselves, what do we think may be problematic for us? Do we perhaps have some chronic absenteeism? What's happening with our discipline? Why are certain children not achieving at the levels that we expect? And start to think about those problems and identify questions about the problems that we're interested in exploring. Susan Mundry: Now, do we have chronic absenteeism? Why is it that children don't want to come to school? Or are there systemic issues such as those children live in a part of the city where transportation is unreliable or there are serious family issues going on. But [inaudible 00:09:21] really start to think about those problems and raise questions from them. But we don't stop there. We then identify multiple sources of data to explore what could be contributing to this problem. And what in particular, a lot of data teams might stop there and throw up their hands and say, "Well, gee, we have a problem that's out of our control." A transportation problem, or a family crisis problem or something else that we really can't change. But instead we asked data teams to explore what conditions that the school or district actually has some control or influence over can we change to improve student experiences and outcome. Susan Mundry: And when you start to shift the conversation to things we have control over, it can really take us into much more productive places. Data teams then set specific goals that they believe can address the problem and create a plan and engage in a cycle of improvement as the plan is implemented, continuing to use data along the way. This type of data inquiry and developing a team that goes through that process also includes helping the team members to deepen their own understanding of what is an equitable school and classroom. Start to think about more broadly, what are the practices one would see in an equitable school? And, as I said, it's almost like peeling back the layers of the onion. You start to get deeper and deeper into thinking about what would a school look like if it was truly equitable? Susan Mundry: A tool that we provide to help with that process is a set of criteria for assessing equity. This tool, which is available from the Center for Educational Equity, lays out seven specific areas related to the school and multiple criteria for the data team to look at and think about as it assesses its own inquiry, excuse me, it's equity process. The tool looks at, as I mentioned, seven areas looking at school policy, how our school policies potentially influence the equity in our school, do we have specific policies around equity. Looks at school organization and administration. Do we have the data that we need to track on and understand how children are doing across multiple outcome areas and indicators, and to be able to intervene early and identify. Maybe all children don't have access to advanced coursework. Maybe all children are not being treated fairly when it comes to student suspensions. But having this data enables us to dig into some of those questions in a team in a supportive environment where we can explore those questions and really learn how effective we are in providing equitable access and opportunity for all students. Susan Mundry: In school climate, looking at the welcoming of all children into the school and those other areas is also critical. And then four other areas that are included in this tool, which is available to you, and I think we'll put the link to this tool in the chat so that you can download it and use it yourself. And looking at our staff. So a major part of the federal requirement is that schools and districts are providing equitable access to quality teachers. So looking at who is the faculty, how are they distributed across your district? Susan Mundry: These are all questions that when we use data to assess equity, start to come into focus and may reveal, as I said, some of those what can be hidden equity issues. These other three areas also provide, there are, I've only given you examples here, but in the tool that, which is now in the chat there, you can download the link, provides multiple criteria for each of these areas and is a tool to help data teams think much more broadly as they're looking at data. How do we assess equity? So the data teams, in addition to learning what is an equitable school, they also learn to use multiple sources of data. And now 15 years ago, I guess it is that I began working in the area of supporting data teams. And at that time we focused very much on student performance data, end of year data in Massachusetts. Susan Mundry: We started looking at the achievement scores and then later the M-cast. And it was, well, everyone could look at and graph who's learning and how they're learning. What we were finding is that we were not really getting early enough data to make a difference and to intervene early. And so getting multiple points along the school year, where you can look at performance is critical, but then looking at some non-academic data. So attendance data, input from families and students themselves, to inform the school around, what are, back to our inquiry process, given the data that we're looking at, what do we think are potentially some problems that we need to explore that would improve equity in our school? Susan Mundry: Multiple other data sources include also looking really carefully at who's being disciplined, how are they being disciplined? And my colleague, Susan Villani had been working in some districts in New York this past year and help those districts discover that some children, due to the discipline data, were out of school such a significant amount of time each year, that they had no chance to learn. And so thinking about what are the alternatives to suspension and keeping students in school and making sure your discipline is equitable. Susan Mundry: So those are just some of the overall outcomes that the data teams have had in terms of their own learning, in terms of enhancing the practice so that they are digging deeply into equity issues and problems. And we want to make the case for all school districts to use data teams that are using an equity lens because we believe that it improves student outcomes. There has been some research that indicates that using data inquiry teams and using teams of instructional staff who inquire into their practice is associated with improved student learning outcomes. The issue is that it's not a one-time let's get together and look at our data when it's ready in the fall from last year, but rather more of an ongoing, over time activity that allows our staff to know their data, explore the problems in the data, and then actually take action to change things. Susan Mundry: And then another piece of evidence is in the using data model, which some of my colleagues developed. There was a randomized, experimental study of that. And when teachers use that process of data inquiry in data teams after one year it improves their own practices, and then after a longer period of two years that student's outcomes are shown to improve. So we believe that data teams and data teams using an equity lens is a best practice and in working with schools and districts, that needs to be a critical part of the overall approach to quality education. Susan Mundry: Just a final note about data inquiry teams themselves, when staff come together to learn the inquiry process, they begin to assume norms and dispositions are presuming positive intentions about the children and their families. Back in the beginning of using data, as I mentioned before, very often data teams said, "well, these are problems we can't do anything about." They're not that the children haven't had opportunities or that we have so many barriers to addressing the issues. When you put on this lens, instead, teams adopt really a problem solving approach, presume positive intentions and thoughts about their children and families, and look for solutions that are within the control of the school and the district. Susan Mundry: By engaging in the inquiry process and asking the questions about equity, such as the ones I showed you in the criteria for assessing equity, they begin to see these, what I call the hidden inequities, the things that maybe you can explain a way by other reasons, but actually if we were a more equitable school we would address, and it builds a leadership and ownership in the district and school for looking for and addressing inequities when we see them. So we think those are all critical, important skills. And based on that, really decided that it would be helpful to develop the tool kit that Susan Villani is going to talk with you about today and to begin working with school districts in the region that the equity assistance center serves which is from Maine to Puerto Rico and The Virgin islands to support more data inquiry teams to come together. Susan Mundry: So, let me stop there and pass it over to Nyla to see if there are any questions before we hear from Susan Villani. Susan Mundry: (Silence). Susan Mundry: And Nyla may be on mute so let me just jump in - Nyla Bell: I'm here. I'm sorry. Thank you, Susan Mundry. Please take a moment to type any questions you have in the Q&A chat box, or the Q&A box, not the chat box on the right panel of your screen. We'll just pause for a couple of seconds and see if anyone has any questions. Nyla Bell: (Silence). Nyla Bell: Okay. So we have one question from [Sangha Kim 00:21:41], and she asks, "can you explain how it is created?" Susan Mundry: The data team? Is that what the "it" is referring to? Nyla Bell: I'm going to assume that that's what she means. Susan Mundry: So I'll say just a minute maybe about that, but then offer that our colleagues from the Acton-Boxborough school district who are with us today, will talk a little bit about how they formed their team and began their work. But typically, the school or district will identify a group of, a multi-stakeholder group, including teachers, leaders, like school leaders, curriculum directors, teacher leaders, and often parents or community members to come together and be their school data team. Can be only one in the school. You can have multiple ones across different grade levels, and they are often charged- Susan Mundry: Different grade levels. And they are often charged with supporting an overall school improvement plan for that school. So being the group that identifies and solves and addresses some of that areas of problem or issues that the school wants to improve on. Those individuals are invited to participate and then are given some background in terms of learning to use data, analyze data, interpret data. We often also, in addition to reviewing criteria for equitable schools, do some additional background work with them around what is equity? What is equity dispositions? What is cultural competence? Depending on the particular district and what they need. And then, over time, they meet regularly to engage in the process that I showed on the prior slide of raising their questions, identifying data, investigating the potential problems, and generating solutions. So that's generally how they're formed and how they begin their work. Nyla Bell: And we have another question from Abner Oakes, and I have a nurse says, "Thanks for the presentation. How long do you engage with the district for this work?" Susan Mundry: That varies. It depends in terms of sometimes it is to get it up and running. And then, the goal is for the local leadership to keep it going and to sustain it. And that might be over one school year. But in other situations, we have worked with districts over multiple years as this actual facilitator of the team. So it does vary. But the whole... the big point is to keep it going, keep it sustained, make sure that it's not just a flash in the pan one-time thing. But rather it becomes part of the ongoing work within the school and district. But that's the way we do business. We come together, we reflect on what our problems are. We look at data, and we seek solutions. Nyla Bell: We have two more questions, actually, three more questions. We may not have time to answer all of them [inaudible 00:25:43]. We can try and get to two more. And then, depending on where we're at in time, revisit the question that hasn't been answered [inaudible 00:25:51] later on in the presentation. So our next question is from [inaudible 00:25:55], who asks, "Do you have a toolkit that can be applied to the classroom?" Susan Mundry: The short answer is yes. And maybe if we have time for more questions at the end, we can describe that when Susan Villani introduces the tool kit, she can talk a little bit about that. How what we've developed is what I would say a process that can really be applied to all aspects of the school. Whether it's a equitable issue you want to investigate in a classroom about student engagement or messages or expectations are some of the things that you would see in a classroom, or whether it's at a more district or school level. I think it's applicable either way. Maybe we'll say that and the rest of the questions for later. So we can introduce the toolkit and then hear from a team that's actually done all this that we're talking about. Nyla Bell: Okay. So an [inaudible 00:27:03] asked [inaudible 00:27:04] more questions. We will get to those questions later on in our presentation, but this time we're going to move forward. And it's my pleasure to pass the presentation over to our next presenter, Dr. Susan Villani. Dr. Susan Villani: Hello everyone. I'm very glad to be able to talk with you a little bit about the toolkit that we've developed and which we are piloting. And thank you, Susan, for setting the stage in terms of all the things we were thinking about when we wanted to create the toolkit. Toolkit is research-based. The process is research-based and the focus of the toolkit, the Data Guide we call it. It's really to assist educators and community members, parents, family, all to be thinking about how to be looking at data with this focus on equity. I do want to answer the quick question about whether there's any kind of guide for classrooms. And the quick answer is yes. Just as the link is for looking at schools in districts, there's also a tool at the Center for Education Equity and Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium. And we can put that link up also for classrooms. Dr. Susan Villani: So what we were interested in doing in setting up this Data Inquiry Guide is to have a set of materials that were accessible, that are accessible to teachers in the classroom. To curriculum coordinators. To school administrators. To central office administrators. Also, to parents and community members who should be an important part of this process. And so, in our toolkit, we have several sections, and I apologize, but this is not larger. The first section makes the case, and this is similar to what Susan Mundry shared. There's research about the importance of this. And there are also compelling reasons why it is so important to use an equity lens. In our second section, we describe a Data Inquiry Cycle. This is not a new cycle. It stands on the shoulders of giants, including our Susan Mundry and others. And so, we've created an easy-to-follow Data Inquiry Cycle. Dr. Susan Villani: And then, we gave examples through an example that might be happening in a school around discipline and discipline data. So after we described each of the steps in the Data Inquiry Cycle, then we modeled how would in that particular made up school, how would they follow the different steps so that they might uncover more about what the discipline data was able to tell them most importantly, so they could together create solutions to make the school more equitable for all students. The third section has some worksheets, and it's a way for a team in the school to try to start to practice what would this cycle look like? And so they can envision, if we were doing this step, what might we be thinking of. And here is some guidance questions and some things to be careful to avoid, so that it's a worksheet for different steps in the Data Cycle. Dr. Susan Villani: The fourth section has three more examples of ways that equity issues can play out in schools in terms of school climate. In terms of LGBTQ issues. In terms of EL issues. And when I say issues, I mean around different populations, there may be inequities that are preventing the students from feeling comfortable in the school, their families feeling comfortable in the school, getting the education that they need, getting the supports they need. Many of the things that Susan mentioned. And so in addition to the example that we gave in section two, we gave three more equity examples. Our thinking is not only do they model how those fictitious schools might be looking at those issues in their schools through the Data Inquiry Cycle. But also our hope is that perhaps readers will say, "Actually, that's happening in our school. Wait a minute. This is very relevant to the work that we need to be doing." Dr. Susan Villani: And then, in section five, we have some resources for different aspects of this work. There are many, many resources, and I think sometimes Inquiry Teams could get overwhelmed with so many things that are out there. And so we tried to call and make their resources in our section five the most directly applicable to this data inquiry work with the focus on equity. So at the end of this webinar, my contact information will be listed, and you are invited to contact me if you are interested in having access to this toolkit to this Data Inquiry Guide. We'd like to talk and find out what you're interested. It's in the pilot stage. And I will be very happy to send you the pilot version and to stay in touch to find out how you're using it and what issues may be coming up for you. It's possible that through the Center for Education Equity, we may be able to provide some technical assistance, or it might be that with a phone call and some intermittent communication, you have what you need in this guide to get started with this work. Dr. Susan Villani: We also want to say that we know that many educators are familiar with using data. And so the purpose of this guide is to help them go deeper into Data Inquiry with this focus on equity. And so it's my pleasure to turn us to thinking about how this has been working in the last school year in Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, which is in Massachusetts. And as you'll see, the vision and mission of Acton-Boxborough are right to the heart of the work that we're talking about. So I'd like to introduce you to Dr. Dawn Bentley. Please tell us just a little bit about your vision and mission and your team. And then, we'll learn more about how you've been doing this process in Acton-Boxborough. Dr. Dawn Bentley: Thanks, Susan. Hello, everyone. Welcome. A few years ago, the district redesigned and reviewed, and engaged in a process to sort of revamp the mission, vision, and values. And that's what you see here before you. Wellness, equity engagement are our three core values and really guide the work that we are engaged in. And you can say that our vision is to provide high-quality educational opportunities for our learners. And we, of course, want to develop engaged, well-balanced learners through collaboration and relationships. Dr. Susan Villani: So what [crosstalk 00:34:27]- Dr. Susan Villani: I'm sorry, please. Go right ahead. Dr. Dawn Bentley: Go ahead. You're good. Dr. Susan Villani: What we're going to do now is try to follow the story is Acton-Boxborough. And initially, Dr. Bentley will be answering some of the questions that I pose to help set the stage. And then we will be hearing from different team members because they have different perspectives. And we want to hear perspectives from different positions within the school district. There were also people from the community, but we decided for this webinar, we would start with the people that are in the schools. And so, Dawn, would you please tell us about your district demographics? Dr. Dawn Bentley: Yes, but before I do, could you go back one slide so I can introduce my team? Dr. Susan Villani: Oh, yeah. Sorry. Dr. Dawn Bentley: That's okay. Thanks. To my left here, your right is Dana Labb, who is a he. He's the principal for Blanchard Memorial School, which is a K-6 building in Boxborough. David Green is down in the purple shirt at the end. He's our social studies department chairperson from the high school. And right next to me here is Heather Haines, our mathematics coordinator. So the four of us are hopefully going to take you through our journey today. Dr. Susan Villani: And I want to say before we move on that it has been my intention to introduce each of you. And I wanted to say right now what a pleasure it is to work with you and how delighted I am that you're here with us today. So to the demographics of Acton-Boxborough Region [inaudible 00:35:58]. Dr. Dawn Bentley: Sure. We thought it might be important to just share a little bit about our demographics at the district level to sort of give you a little bit of context. We're located for those of you outside of the state, about 30 miles Northwest of Boston. Combined, our two towns have around 30,000 residents. Our median home price is between 600 and 615,000. And our average household income in the two communities is around $145,000. District-wide we have about 5,600 students. We do operate preschool through grade 12. And you can see from the chart that about the majority of our students are white. [inaudible 00:36:39] about a third of them are Asian. And then the remaining 10 or so percent is combined between African-American, Hispanic, multiracial, as well as some native American and Pacific Islander. But if we looked at the snapshot 20 years ago, in 1998, it would be 90% white and 8% Asian were really the two big demographics. Dr. Dawn Bentley: That was actually a little bit after David and I were here as students. And today, you can see from the chart that about 18% of our students have a language, a first language that is other than English. 5% are English learners. 16% of them have an IEP. And around 6% of them are economically disadvantaged, which translates for us to about 10% actually, who are on free and reduced [inaudible 00:37:30]. And if I, again, go back a few decades, 1.2% of our students spoke a language other than English as their first language. One 10th of a percent were English learners. And fewer than 2% of our students were economically disadvantaged. So you can see in just a few decades that our population has shifted in some significant ways, and that's helping inform our work as well. You can go ahead to the next one, Susan, thanks. We are considered a high-achieving district. Dr. Dawn Bentley: Our average SAT scores are 1340. We have quite a large number of our students. About 60% at the high school take AP exams with a 96% passing rate. And we're consistently ranked one of the top districts in the state. You can see on the right-hand side this data was just actually unembargoed yesterday. But by 10th grade, 99% of our students are proficient on our state assessments in English, language, arts, and 96% are proficient in mathematics. So you can see, probably, why folks look at the district as and consider us to be high-achieving. Dr. Susan Villani: So, given those statistics that you just shared about the high achievement, what prompted your interest in this work? Dr. Dawn Bentley: So I started in 2016, but in the summer of 2017, my counterpart, our other assistant superintendent, Deborah Bookis, who is overseas teaching and learning. We were charged with figuring out how to accomplish one of our long-term strategic plan goals around equity. And as I shared earlier, that's one of our district's core values. And specifically, our annual goal was to conduct an equity audit of the districts, looking mindfully at equitable access for our historically underserved populations. But prior to that, I had had extensive coursework around educational equity and equity audits through my master's and doctoral programs at Michigan State. And Deb is actually currently enrolled in a doctoral program. That's where she is today. So we both... we certainly had a lot of knowledge, and we know that this is something that we really sort of needed to start to take a look at as a district. So that was sort of a lot of the beginnings of the work. Dr. Susan Villani: So how did your thinking shift from when you were originally contacted CEE asking for an Equity Audit to forming your Data Inquiry Team facilitated by CEE? Dr. Dawn Bentley: So this is outlined, I think in a little bit more detail in the blog that I wrote that CEE just actually published today. In November 2017, we were lucky enough to have an onsite meeting with folks from [inaudible 00:40:14]. So we had Dr. Carmen Roland here. We had [inaudible 00:40:16], and you were here, obviously, Susan, and we shared our history and our demographics. We identified our goals, and we talked about our requests for technical assistance, which initially came in the form of a formal equity audit. But during this meeting [inaudible 00:40:31] really, really hard on this request on this notion for an external equity audit. And ultimately, we agreed that we really needed to learn how to do much of the work inside because we do believe in building strong systems that will survive sort of over the test of... they'll survive the test time and they can outlive the individuals who created them or initially began them. Dr. Dawn Bentley: So we instinctively knew if we brought in experts from outside to do this work, sort of to us, not with us, it would situate that power elsewhere. And instead of it really being here with our own teachers and our building leaders and our central office administrators, where ultimately it should be. So about a month later, we had a conference call to sort of follow up. And we decided that at that time, we would not do the equity audit, but we'd engage in some technical assistance. And that was where Susan sort of threw out the curveball around this Data Inquiry Guide for exploring equity and asked if we would be interested in piloting it. Dr. Dawn Bentley: So, of course, we were super excited about that because any way we can help to not only find a tool that works for us but to help sort of develop one that other districts can then possibly use would be fantastic. And, of course, we knew we'd be learning all along the way. So, in addition to [inaudible 00:41:49] piloting that data inquiry guide, we also determined that Susan would facilitate our Data Inquiry Team, our DIT, and we met multiple times last year to sort of start examining data through an equity lens. So that's sort of our thinking about the work and kind of how we got to the place sort of where we are today. Dr. Susan Villani: Would you speak a little bit about how you formed the Data Inquiry Team? Dr. Dawn Bentley: Yeah, so we have about 450 certified staff in the district, and we have quite a number of administrators. And so, it was, of course, this, how do we distill this down to a group that's reasonable. We sort of settled on the number 12 and hope to keep it within that. But we also knew we wanted different genders. We wanted different levels represented. We wanted parents who can serve on the team. We wanted somebody from our teacher association. And we also knew that we wanted our team to be racially diverse, which was actually the hardest challenge because we don't have a very diverse teaching or leadership staff currently. And in some cases, folks wore multiple hats because we really did want to keep it at 12. So a few folks served as a parent and a leader or a parent and a teacher. But we did. We were able to keep it at 12. Dr. Susan Villani: Thank you. So I'd like to know about how the members of this newly formed district Data Inquiry Team responded to the Data Inquiry Cycle and the data dialogue that we did with Acton-Boxborough data. David, would you start us off with that, please? David Green: Sure. Thank you, everybody, for joining us. I'm David Green, the department chair of social studies at the high school here in Acton. My take on this is that this was a very much long incoming. So I think it was with great relief that we felt like we could begin this conversation in a more formal way. So it's not that people never talked about it, but there wasn't a way to formalize the conversation. In addition to that, I think once again, it's not that we were afraid to discuss the issues, but it felt like we were talking around them. So, for example, on the ground, what that looked like is we would say, "Well, there's a cultural aspect to this problem in the school." But we wouldn't name exactly what that meant. There was some fear around naming that. And so I feel a personal sense relief that we're now able to start having these conversations more bluntly, to be honest, and more safely. Heather Haines: And so, for me, I really appreciated the structure of the Data Inquiry Cycle, and really it made us slow down. A lot of times, when you look at data, people sort of rush to explaining away differences that exist. And so this really forced us to slow down and question some of those differences that we were seeing. And I love at the beginning of the process we're asked to make predictions about what we'll see in the data. And for me, that really made me come in to looking at the data, to being curious. And also thinking about what the predictions said about my own biases that I come into this process with. So if I'm making a prediction, why am I thinking that that's going to be the case? I also really liked that we had a wide range of people who were part of this process because it made me feel like we were really all in this together to do this work. Dr. Susan Villani: Thank you, Heather and David, thank you. And I'm going to come back and ask you some more. Are there examples of when using the data dialogue and thinking of possible root causes, it lead to new insights for consideration? David Green: Yes, definitely. So one of the things that it was actually heavy that really brought it to the table was the need to define equity. And it's something that I've been thinking about as well. And I noticed that it was one of the questions from one of our attendees as well today. It's a word that... Dana: ...can be used as well today. It's a word that gets used fairly reflexively and has been used for quite a long time, but not always correctly. And I would argue that it's the access quality of it that's often missing in the conversations. That was a big piece of it for me. Dana: I think the other insight is that I grew up in this community. So, my family moved here in 1979 and I graduated from the very school where I now work and am very aware of how dramatically the student population has changed. And what's interesting is, observing the community, I think there are many people who acknowledge that change and are ready to make changes accordingly in how we educate kids. And I think there are other people who really either aren't aware or aren't ready to embrace the fact that that change has occurred. And that's an insight that I think informs us moving forward. Heather Haines: So, for me, the root cause analysis was the part of the process that I really struggled with the most, but I also think it was the part of the process that was most valuable for me. It really forced, I think all of us, to think about what were the things that we had control over. Heather Haines: This is something that Susan highlighted at the beginning. Susan [Mundry 00:47:24] did. And I often have a hard time when there's a large problem to think about, really thinking about how it's okay to take those small steps. And so this really made me value those small changes that we could look at, and how we could, because this was a process we were going to come back to over and over again, I could feel confident that even though it was a small step, we were going to come back to it and then we could take another small step to try to work on a bigger issue. Susan: Thank you. Next question is about using the data dialogue to prompt the data inquiry team's thinking about equity, or to encourage members of the data inquiry team to think differently. And for this, it will be great to hear from Heather, Dana, and David, please. Heather Haines: So as I mentioned before, this process really surfaced for me some of my own biases that I come to this process with. I really looked at what were the inequities that sort of bothered me the most in this process and ask myself why that was. And also as I was making predictions, to sort of ask myself why I was making those predictions. Heather Haines: I also think that it helped me in thinking deeply about the data and made me investigate more deeply about the large number of groups that we were seeing having inequitable outcomes. And I might not have taken a deeper dive into thinking about those other groups without this process. I might've stopped where we were just looking at places where there were larger differences, but this process made me keep asking myself, I wonder why that is. David Green: Hi. So I don't know if there's any building level administrators out there, but for us, I feel like it helped us to slow down the process of how we look at students. One of the things we did in our opening this year was to really talk about the story of the children that we have in front of us, and start to notice and wonder about the students and the information that we have available to us. A lot of the work that we're doing this year is around looking through a strength-based lens, as opposed to a deficit based lens, and really trying to start from there and working on our relationships with students. David Green: Susan, to talk a little bit about where we have control. And for me, as a building level administrator, at the building level it really starts within the classrooms. So really looking at our classroom spaces and how we create them to reflect the culture, values, and experiences of the students we have in front of us. Dana: For my part, I think it took a subject that's very subjective, we know it when we see it, but again, as I mentioned earlier, it's not always easy to talk directly to it. So it made equity study-able. And I think it also made me much more passionate about getting people on board with making this part of the fabric of what we do every day. So as opposed to it being reactive, if there's something that requires our attention in the moment, rather we would have it become something that is part of our day to day. Susan: Thank you. What went well in doing the data dialogue? Again, going to turn to Heather, David, and Dana. Heather Haines: So part of the process when we start looking at the data is this idea of having the data be a third point. So everyone doesn't have an individual copy of the data that they have in front of them, but the group is looking at one place to look at it. And for me, that really made me feel like we all had ownership over this data rather than having it be individually my own. Heather Haines: I also think another thing that was really valuable was we all are asked to verbalize observations that we make about the data. And I think that allowed everybody to sort of validate what people were noticing. Because sometimes you may think in your head something, but it may not actually be true. And so verbalizing those things for the group made it so that we were all looking at that. And then it made me feel like, okay, we all have the same understanding as we're moving forward and making decisions. David Green: For me, I think because this definitionally involves such a large number of stakeholders, I don't worry about this work falling through the cracks. It doesn't feel like an initiative that we begin and then let go of when things get busy. We have teachers involved, administrators, counselors. It's happening at all levels. There's a wide awareness that this work is happening. David Green: And then also, we worked hard to establish norms that we take very seriously. And what it does is it allows us to come to the table and speak about all of this in an unencumbered way, without worrying about judgment, without worrying about being accused of something really negative, knowing that there might be some gentle prompting me to expand our thinking or some work on language. Dana: Yeah. Just to follow up with David on that, on the point about the norms. It caused us to really examine our existing norms because we wanted to make sure there was psychological safety. We're talking about our own biases that we're bringing into this process, in addition to the actual data that we're looking at as well. And as we know, teaching and learning is very personal. And in order to avoid some of the hard feelings around that when we are returning and returning to the root causes, we really wanted to focus on those causes as opposed to the symptoms around shifting blame to whatever it might be the cause of those. Dana: Something that really worked well was we did a lot of data dialogue across a number of days. So while we did it in the existing team together, we also had another day set aside where we had heterogeneous groupings of folks from the district, with upper administration at the district level, as well as teachers and administrators, to really go through the process and to do it multiple times so that we could compare the causes that we came up with and start to really put together some smart pulls for solutions. And it was interesting to see that we all landed in the same place. Susan: Thank you. Would you speak about whether there were challenges in using the data dialogue process, please? Heather Haines: So as I talked about before, the part that I struggled with the most was the root cause analysis. And I think that says more about me than it does about your process. But when you do the root cause analysis, each time you're answering that question, why? You're sort of cutting off the whole section of the tree until you're kind of looking at a little twig. And I really worried as a participant in this, what if there was some other really important branch in the tree that I should have been thinking about first? And here I am looking at this tiny twig that may not be the most important thing. But as I said before, the fact that I knew we were going to keep coming back to this and that it was okay if we took that tiny step from that tiny twig, we'd come back to the tree, I was okay. David Green: For me, it goes back to what I mentioned earlier about the definition of equity. I think the group, thanks to Heather's question, really needed to slow down and back up and make sure that we were working from the same assumptions about that word and what it means. I think personally, we don't know what the consequences of this kind of work will be. We like to think that the outcomes will be positive, but we don't know what relationships this kind of work strains. We don't know what happens in a community that historically supports the school unquestionably, how it will react to this work. And what will the conversations really be about when we look at putting resources into building new schools and sourcing the schools that we already have. Dana: It's always a challenge to look at data and only try to make objective statements. We tend to jump to inferences. So that was a really difficult piece of the process. As a building leader, again, you take the data at times personally. And so it was really important to go back to those norms and set out that our objective was in the best interest of students. And so we just had to keep that at the forefront. Dana: I think another difficult piece, at least for me at the building level was, we're having all these great and rich conversations about the data. We have it accessible to us. Starting to think about how you share that with other folks in your building, it's something that you start to worry about as well. And so some of the ways that I started embedding that with my co-leader was, we used the five why's, in a rather innocuous way, but usually just as a process to try to work through some issues of a book study that we were doing as it's related to social, emotional learning. And knowing that once the staff understands the process of moving through and staying away from inferences and really trying to get to root causes, being able to transfer that to some of these key issues was really important. Susan: Thank you. Now, in what ways has the work of the data inquiry team, the work that was done last year, been shared? Dana, would you please speak to that? Dana: Sure. So both the data inquiry team and the school leadership team, which is comprised of building principals and central office administrators, we engaged in two separate data inquiry cycles, one of which Dawn and I both co-facilitated, with the same dataset, which ultimately led to proposed smart goals embedded into our district wide annual goals under the long range strategic plan. Some of these goals included increasing educator diversity in the workplace, the workforce, and developing greater capacity and consistency among and between evaluators on standard two, which is teaching all students with the Massachusetts' Educator Evaluation Rubric through learning and calibration exercises for high quality feedback. Dana: So part of the work that I'll be doing with the district as we get closer into the winter months is really focusing on that second part of that rubric, and really try to calibrate not only with the principals so that we can all get on the same page around what we're really looking for in that area of teaching all students, but also of the other folks are responsible for evaluating as well. And then creating a stakeholder survey around homework policies and practices through the equity lens. Susan: Thank you. Dawn, what are plans for future work of the data inquiry team? Dr. Dawn Bentley: So, one of our proposed district wide annual goals for this year include some of this work here that's listed on the screen. Our school committee is still in the process of reviewing these, so they haven't been finalized. But we are looking at continued capacity building with the data dialogue process. Ultimately, I think the way that this will play out at the school level, Dana sort of gave some really good examples of what that might look like at the building level, even just using a piece of the data inquiry process with the root cause analysis, but also looking at our school improvement teams and how we use data to inform that work. Dr. Dawn Bentley: We're also going to be looking at a stakeholder survey. We did a pretty big overhaul on our homework policies and practices in the last few years at all of our levels. And so we'll be engaging in a stakeholder survey this year around those policies and practices. And we'll be doing that through an equity lens with some support from [Mack 01:00:12] and you, Susan. Dr. Dawn Bentley: And we also, the most pressing work, which we're actually going to start in a few weeks, is to look at the existing practices in our buildings. And we're looking at family contributions around time, treasure, and talent. We sort of call them the three T's. And we're actually starting with just treasure. So looking at ways that we ask our families to contribute to schools, whether it's supplies, whether it's field trips, whether it's boxes of Kleenex, all of those things, and how that plays out in ways across each of our buildings and could contribute to certainly inequitable circumstances for some of our students and our families. Susan: Thank you. I'm going to ask you to start, Dana, and then Dawn next, what advice would you have for people beginning this process using the data inquiry guide for exploring equity issues and solutions? Dana: Sure. So for building level administrators, one of the ways that we can really have an impact change is through the school improvement plan. And I think it's important that you have a school council that's representative of your school and that this is fairly large too, made up of several parents. One of the things that we did a couple of years ago was we did a large survey and what came out of that survey was the finding that we hadn't really considered before around families and how to make some of the activities through our parent teacher experiences more equitable. And so I guess what I would say is, you've got to ask the stakeholders and you've got to trust that if you're starting to get an inkling of something that you follow that. Dana: What can also happen on the other side is, we can't always be implementing and you can get really caught up in that with a school improvement plan process. So you have to have time to monitor, review, and determine where the benefits could be made, and it has to be intentional and deliberate. We have to move away from all the knowledge we have and start acting at some point. Dana: So another big piece would be, after asking, is really to model that. So I have a really strong opinion of a co-leadership model. So my assistant principal and I, we both try to practice what we preach. And so having the actions and really getting in with the teachers. And then also the language that we're using, both with each other and with students, is really important. Dana: So I think those are the things that I would really focus on. We have a culture and climate goal in our school improvement plan, and we really feel like one helps support the other. It's hard to determine sometimes which one comes first, but we feel like it's really important that the things we're doing well in the building, we really focus on, and connecting that to the district and making sure that the student experience is what helps to drive us. Susan: Thank you. Dr. Dawn Bentley: And I'd also say, it has been mentioned a few times, and I know there was at least one question down below, maybe 10 more now, about what is equity. And it's interesting. So we have a working definition of equity, because it's already sort of been tweaked a few times and we still don't feel like it's necessarily perfect, but I will read it to you. It's not on the slide, but I'll read it to you. Equity is an operational principle for shaping policies and practices that provide high expectations and appropriate resources so that all students can achieve with minimal variance due to race, income, language, or gender. And that's adopted actually from an old piece from [Hart & Jermaine Watts 01:03:45] from 1996. Dr. Dawn Bentley: The other big thing I think, that we thought about when we ... Well, I think looking back now ... Being ready to slow down, so it's a go slow to go fast sort of thing. And we did have to back it up a little bit before we could go forward. So some of this work can sort of start out in fifth in sort of different stages. Dr. Dawn Bentley: And one of the things I think that's super important through any work that you're doing, but especially this kind of work, we've talked about how some of these are sort of third rails, sometimes really tough conversations for us to have here, is to just really be ready to listen to one another and to dig deep in respectful, but ways that hold one another accountable for the work and to what we owe our students and our families. Dr. Dawn Bentley: And I think the other big learning for us is, often when we talk about equity and the notion of equity, it means a loss for some in order to benefit others, right? To sort of level that playing field. And so that can be a really tough sell for a lot of different stakeholders. Change often represents loss. So that's something that we've been thinking a lot about and actually was one of our big worries when we sort of started the process, when we were thinking, we want somebody else to come in and do this work because it's going to be hard and it's going to be messy and we don't want to get our hands dirty. Dr. Dawn Bentley: So we're really excited we got our hands dirty and we feel like we're much better able to support those conversations, but those are going to be really hard. And I sort of feel like they're just beginning. We're sort of just at the beginning of that. So those are the things I would think people should keep in mind, I guess. Susan: Thank you. In just one moment we're going to turn to the questions that we have. I just want to say that what we've heard is, I think, amazingly inspiring in terms of the process of thinking about data inquiry with a focus on equity, with individuals who've thinking about these things, with individuals that are accustomed to working with data, and with individuals that some might say had more to lose by opening up some of these issues, working in a district that enjoys very high reputation and high test scores. And yet if every student isn't being served, the educators that met today, and many others, are not satisfied. Susan: So I just want to say that before we turn to questions, what I want to make clear is we designed this data inquiry guide to be accessible at many different levels. So if you're an educator in a school where this kind of work hasn't been happening, we wrote this guide so that it would be easy to access and the tools would be clear and you would have the support you need to engage in this process. And if you are an educator working in a system where many of these things are discussed and you want to go broader or deeper, we also believe that the toolkit could be useful ... Toolkit, guide. We vacillate between the terms. But we do believe that what's provided are tools and resources, as well as a clearly defined cycle and process, that can be accessed at different levels of experience with this topic, with this work, and to support the commitment that potential users would have. Susan: So I'm going to task this to [Nyla 01:07:29] Who's going to give lots of opportunity for questions to be answered. Thank you so much, Acton-Boxborough team. And now here come questions for you. Nyla: Okay. So, so far we have about four questions. We're going to start going through the questions, but as we go through the Q&A, if you have any questions that you have not posted, please take a moment to post them now. Again, we'll begin, but you can always continue to post questions in the Q&A box and we'll get through as many of them as possible. Nyla: So we have two questions that [inaudible 01:08:11] when Susan [Bellany 01:08:13] went through the Q&A session with the Acton-Boxborough team, but we also have two questions that were asked right after Susan Mundry concluded her part of the presentation that I'm going to get to first. I'm going to try and pose questions in the order in which they were presented. So M. Kim asked, and this question was answered already, but the latter part of the question wasn't, and M. Kim's question is, what is your definition of equity? Which has been answered. But then also she asks, or he asked, how does that inform the dis-aggregation of data? Dr. Dawn Bentley: Jump in anybody who has any ... Heather Haines: What is your definition of equity? Dr. Susan Villani: What's your definition of [crosstalk 01:09:03]. Dawn Bordley: Well, so our definition and how does it... so one of the ways that we slice and dice sort of what we look at is really dependent on some of those variables. We don't have actually a data person in the district so to speak, so a lot of the data is done. We have to sort of do a lot of that work ourselves. So that actually is one of our limiting factors, but we do look at race. We look at gender, we look at socioeconomic status, we look at absentee rates, we look at free and reduced lunch. So there are a whole bunch of different ways that we do try and look at the data. We also look at the data by elementary building, we have six elementary. So we look at the data across the elementary schools and then look at the population. Dawn Bordley: So one of the things we found the most useful is that anytime we're using the data to also have whatever that population sort of broader representation either in the school itself or in the district, what that looks like, so that there's sort of a comparison because sometimes the data isn't all that skewed, even though it may look like it at the outset. Did you have anything to add to that? Dana: Yeah, we looked at students that were on IEPs and we tried to triangulate that with the data in the district, as well as some similar school districts as well. Nyla: Okay. Should I move on to the next question? Dr. Dawn Bentley: Sure. Thanks Nyla. Nyla: Okay. We have another question for Anne Kim and that is, what from the research have you discovered is unique to examining data with an equity lens as opposed to other lenses. And I can repeat that question again if you'd like, David Green: I think I can speak to that a little bit. One way. I think there's a lot of ways to answer that question because there are so many different lenses, but one, and I'll say it I was a student here and now I work here, as I mentioned before, is that it's a district that has always enjoyed a successful reputation. And I think one thing that we're looking at is our definition of success. So when you look at what we do through an equity lens, we don't want to take away from the ways in which people traditionally succeed, but we definitely want to expand that definition. Dr. Dawn Bentley: I also wonder if either of the Susans have thoughts on that as well, because this has been a big research area for them. Susan Mundry: Yes. I would just point out that in the citations that I talked about earlier, the Copeland and Dalmore and the Timperley in particular, those studies really looked on more on the data inquiry side and engaging teachers in analyzing the data and identifying how data could be used to improve practice and outcomes. But the third, the randomized control trial looks specifically at the using data model and their use of collaborative inquiry teams and that process, which we developed with a group of folks with three people from West ed and Nancy Love from originally from chart and add on. And then that research for better teaching that initially that model did not have an equity as a focus, but as we developed it, we found that it was very, very difficult, the data team to have productive results without themselves having conversations about equity and digging into what happens when you just aggregate data and how do you have conversations about that in a very productive way? Susan Mundry: So it is with that model that we did begin the work around putting on the equity lens. So that's study does really examine, I think, were processed that has the equity lens. The new work that we're doing now for the center for educational equity, we have not done a study yet of its results or its impact. And, maybe down the road, we could do that as well. But that's what I can offer in addition to what the panel said about that question. Nyla: Okay. So our next question is from Virginia Winter, and I believe she asked this question after at the point where the active optical team responded to the question of what worked well on data dialogue. So her question at around that time is, or was, as you discovered some of the areas where via SEED made themselves evident. What professional learning supported the shift of mindsets from deficit to strength based lens for viewing the students. What's the journey to forge a common definition of equity. And again, I can repeat that question, if you like. Dr. Dawn Bentley: So that question has a number of moving parts. I will take part of it, but I know my colleagues are going to chime into four parts of it. Our focus, our guiding question this year is, how do we support kids through a strength-based lens and so we really are looking at the language that we're using, we're looking at how we're thinking about children, we're looking at person first language where all sorts of those things, just to shift what our school health does sound like in terms of the adults communicating with one another. When you look at this aggregated data and supported the shift of mindsets from deficit to strengths-based... Dr. Dawn Bentley: So, as an example, yesterday, my counterpart Dawn Bordley and I spent the day, we actually are going to be spending days with every one of the grade levels this year. And our whole entire presentation is around inclusive literacy classrooms and the language that we use, but all of it under that strength-based umbrella. So, really thinking about what our students bring with them, and then how we build upon those versus you know, they can't, or won't kinds of mind frames. So really shifting how they think is one example of how we're thinking about that. Speaker 2: So, I come to this with the elementary math lens and so, this year in particular, we're thinking about what types of tasks are good ways to sort of open up who can participate in mathematics discussion, and how can we sort of shift from the students can't do the standard algorithm for addition to this is how the student can solve the problem and how can we move them towards more efficient strategies. David Green: I would say at the high school level, and specifically in the social studies' department, we've really been looking at assessment, what's the purpose of assessment, what is it trying to measure and helping teachers understand that you can use alternative assessment and still offer rigorous education. And so I think that what I'm speaking to there is the piece of your question when you're talking about the shift of mindset, I think sometimes teachers worry that if something isn't rigorous, they're not doing their jobs. And I think what we're working on is that you can actually have it both ways. Dana: I think for us, it was before getting the business of teaching and learning, really getting to know the student in front of you having a shared a common language, not only within the classroom where a lot of the work of getting to know each other's by the students, but how we do that in a broader area in the building. So that we're all approaching students the same way, and really coming at it from a strength-based language or being positive and the things that they're able to do as opposed to not. I think the part of the process we do and where I'm leading to have a study about a child is to really come out at first and the things that they bring to the table and how we can adjust the learning for them to access it. Nyla: So our next question is from Laura Connie, please forgive me if I'm pronouncing her name, Laura. She wrote "Sorry, if I missed this, had to step out, we'll all a part of the toolkit and shared also, what do you use or develop to conduct root cause analysis? And I know this is a question that I'm asking boxful can respond to answers, then Andrew Anderson and Landry or Susan Mundry." Dr. Dawn Bentley: So in terms of the root cause analysis, we use the five why's protocols where we identify one of our inferences and we dig deep into the why is the inference the case, and then why is that the case? Why is that the case? Why is that the case? Then often as Heather was describing earlier, it does sort of form a branch and goes into some different directions, but we use the five why's. Susan Mundry: And I did put a link to one resource that describes that process there in the chat, as well as a link to the protocol of data-driven dialogue that the team discussed, that's also in the chat. But those tools are also included in the data inquiry guide that we developed. And yes, that is something that you can request as Susan Villani said, we are pilot testing it. So it isn't up on the C website or a download yet, but we're happy to share it and you can contact Susan Villani for that. And I think we'll provide her, I'll actually put the email right in the chat for you. Susan Villani, you're on you, thank you. Dr. Susan Villani: Yes. We're very interested in sharing our pilot version of the guide and because it is a pilot version, we'd really like to stay in touch with people that receive it and find out how you're using it, are there things you could suggest that would help us make it better as we move towards finalizing it. And that's why rather than put it on the website, we're asking people to contact me because then we can have a conversation about it and also establish some way that we can be staying in touch. Not in any way that our competition, but rather in ways that can inform our thinking when we move from pilot version to the final version, although everything has always evolved. So I had to take to you towards final, but as we move from pilot version to our next version. Nyla: Okay. So our next question, our next set of questions comes from Kim Hopper. She asks, or he asks, "What research did you, the DIT team, do to build your own cultural competencies prior to taking on this project?". Dr. Dawn Bentley: That is a great question and continues to be a work in progress. We are engaged with the seed project right now and seeking equitable education through... I wish I knew what the DIT stood for, we just call it SEED. I want to say I'm not even going to make it up, but it's through, I believe it's out of Harvard, is it not. David Green: Wellesley? Dr. Dawn Bentley: Wellesley? yeah. It's in Wellesley. The national seed project stands for creating- Dana: Educational equity and diversity. Dr. Dawn Bentley: Yes. Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity, thank you, we just call it SEED. So a year ago, over a year ago, the entire school leadership team. So all of our principals and all of our central office leaders engaged in the training for the year, which is all around building cultural competency. Not only to be able to talk about these things, but to really examine our own implicit biases and sort of our own thinking, our metacognition, all of those things that inform it, but really just to understand the history of inequity sort of across our own history as a country. Dr. Dawn Bentley: And right now our district leadership team, which David is a part of, is engaged in that as well. And so they're going through that this year. And within the next few years, we've asked all of our teaching staff, our certified staff to also engage in that training. And we're in the process right now of we have four or five people in the district who are trained as trainers offering those workshops across time. So, that was one of the big ways and we're really excited that if all of us can have that background and ability to talk about those things, we'll be in a pretty exciting place. Nyla: And another question from Kim Hopper or any solution quote, unquote, or solution or best practices implemented from your findings? Dr. Dawn Bentley: Well, I think because our findings just sort of have happened in August, June, July, August, over the summer. We haven't had time to do that. They certainly are, as I mentioned earlier, there are some goals that are no strategic actions, embedded in our goal plan for the year that the school committee is currently reviewing. And one of them for instance, is around hiring more diverse educators over the course of the next few years, we have a smart goal around that. As Dana shared, we have a smart goal around our... that teaching all students are the second area of our Massachusetts education framework. And we're also starting to look at ways to families contribute. So nothing necessarily in terms of outcomes yet of that, unless, although I consider those outcomes because we looked at data, we decided that, that we needed to do and we made a decision to include them in our big work this year. Dana: I know at the building level, I brought some of the conversations from our initial work back to the PTF, which is our parents' future organization. And they have changed the structure of giving and of how families can get involved. That came out of some of the work that those families did through our school improvement plan. So for example, something as simple as the auction, we've totally rearranged the way that we asked folks to give in and to help them feel a part of that. So, another I think outcome of that too, was just really being thoughtful and how we help support our families and the district financially. Don had mentioned about school supplies, and those are conversations that we're having, what are need to have, what a nice staff and what are we going to be responsible for helping to support for student learning. So that's a conversation we have in ad amongst building principals and tell now it's definitely going to change the way that we support students in a positive way. Dr. Susan Villani: Great! Thank you. Nyla, do we have any other questions? Nyla: Yes, we have about two more questions left and about one more minute, so we'll try and get through one of the two events. But this question is from Anne Kim who asked "what were some of the norms your team developed to add structure and psychological safety during the data inquiry process?" David Green: I think a big one for us was assumed good intentions. That's the thing I always went back to. Okay. Dr. Susan Villani: I might that, artist with the seven norms of collaboration, which were familiar to some people and others. And we tact a little bit about words that we know the meaning of, to understand how seven norms of collaboration can be useful for any group to enhance their communication and build their trust. And we can put up the seven norms toolkit, it's a resource you can get free online, spelling out seven norms tool kits for more information about. Speaker 2: We also talked about not climbing that ladder of inference when people make statements. Nyla: Okay. So we have one final question from Virginia Winters and she, or he asked "What do you think about, sorry, let me say that again. When you think about curriculum alignment and equity, what tools did you use alignment?" Dana: I can speak on behalf of the building had their hands and I kind of started up a pre-pilot last year of math programs. And so the first thing that we did was, we asked ourselves what are the non-negotiables that we have? And so in order to start formulating those, we looked at not only our school level school improvement goals, but we also looked at the values of the district, one of them being equity. So, one of our non-negotiables was to make sure that we selected programs to pilot, which we're doing this year that were equitable to all students and that I can go very deep into what that means for a particular mathematics program, but that was the major sole focus for us i how to make it accessible and how to diversify it. David Green: And at the high school level, in social studies, we went through a process of curriculum mapping and not just mapping the content of our courses, but mapping particular skills to that content. And now we're in the process, as I mentioned earlier, we're looking at assessment. So mapping particular kinds of assessment to particular content. Speaker 2: And I talked earlier about how in mathematics, we've been thinking about, how can you, you're still teaching the curriculum standards, but how can you open up the tasks that you're asking students to do so that everybody has access to doing the mathematics. And at a very seemingly simple sort of level, but it's actually a lot more complex, all of our departments, I think preschool through grade 12 have been engaged in really looking at the literature and the materials that we used to support our instruction and ensuring that all of our students see themselves and sort of hear themselves in the types of things that we're choosing for them to learn through. Nyla: And so those are all of our questions. If you have more information, you can contact Susan Villani. I believe you wanted to make a final statement? Dr. Susan Villani: I just want to encourage anyone that would like to pursue this to please contact me, no obligation. And I'd love to talk with you about what you're working on and to put an equity brief on data increase will be posted soon on the NAEC websites. The center for education equity is part of the mid Atlantic equity consortium, so that's NAEC. Thank you everybody. Thank you, Atkins Bucksbro. Thank you Susan Mundry. Nyla thank you. And Pamela for facilitating. And viewers, thank you for your thoughtful questions. Nyla: So this concludes today's webinar. Thank you for joining us and for your great questions and thank you to all the presenters. When you walk out, please take a couple of minutes to complete a survey after the webinar to let us know what you think of this webinar and what we can do to improve future webinars. Susan Mundry: Thank you everyone. David Green: Thank you everyone. For your participation, you may all disconnect.      

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