Restarting schools amid the pandemic has everything to do with equity, social justice, and anti-racism. Of course, there are very compelling, very dramatic reasons why equity, social justice, and anti-racism deserve our attention at this moment in history. And, it’s so long overdue.

And, education at this moment in history simply must aggressively and passionately address inequities. The pandemic has affected Black and Latinx populations and those living in poverty at significantly higher rates; students living in poverty, and Black and Latinx students, have been negatively impacted by distance learning at relatively higher rates.

Importantly, we recognize that there are other groups who we have underserved: LGBTQ students, students with learning disabilities, and students learning English (who are potentially biliterate) also demand our best and better efforts.

In my school district, we can predict student access to college preparatory courses, students graduating eligible for applying to four-year public universities in California, and students receiving passing grades in classes based on these same racial and socioeconomic subgroups. When a Black or Latinx student begins their educational career in our district (and every other district) they have about half the chance of graduating high school college and career ready as Caucasian and Asian students. When a new school year begins, half of our schools’ Black or Latinx students will receive a D or F in high school courses. The rates are even higher for Black or Latinx students living in poverty.

Now is the time (it’s way past the time) to end inequities. If not now, when?

By the way, the success rates, low as they are relative to other subgroups of Black and Latinx students, and students living in poverty are higher in my school district than they are in nearly every other school district. We have the best teachers and the best schools in the state. We simply must do even better.

And so, led by teachers, we are engaged in a fierce effort to, ultimately, end these unacceptable and avoidable discrepancies in access and achievement based on demographics. While we are still in the planning stages, we are applying the A, D, Cs:

  • A – Awareness, Acknowledgement, Action, Accountability
  • D – Define and Document 
  • C – Challenge and Change

A – Awareness, Acknowledgement, Action, Accountability

  • Awareness – We all must be committed to increasing our awareness of our own biases, privileges, the experiences of others, what racism means, and how to be an anti-racist.
  • Acknowledgement – We must acknowledge that there is a problem…that inequitable and differential distributions in access and achievement along demographic groups is real and unacceptable.
  • Action – We must identify areas which represent opportunities growth and develop a plan for improvement.
  • Accountability – We must determine ways in which we will eagerly and humbly gather data and evidence that monitors the progress, in as timely a manner as possible, of our plans until and after success is achieved.

D – Define and Document 

  • Define – We must define the challenges, the needs, the goals, and the vision of success.
  • Document – We must document our commitments and our efforts, so this critically important and long overdue work represents a movement and not simply a moment.

C – Challenge and Change

  • Challenge – We must courageously challenge the status quo, the normalcy of differential distributions of students based on demographics, and the adequacy of success for some.
  • Change – We must immediately and permanently change the system, which involves among other factors:
    • Leadership decisions
    • District, site, departmental, and PLC team priorities
    • Input and outreach to the community, to parents, to students, and to staff
    • Hiring practices
    • Student discipline, in the classroom and beyond
    • Students sense of belonging in the classroom, in the course, and at the school
    • Student-to-student interactions
    • Teacher-to-student interactions

We must know what success looks like:

  • Demographic distributions of students within Advanced Placement and rigorous college preparatory courses match the demographic distributions of students across the school, for all subgroups.
  • Demographic distributions of student grades and assessment scores (being mindful of the inherent biases in many assessments) match the demographic distributions of students across the school, for all subgroups.
  • Demographic distributions of students who graduate future  ready match the demographic distributions of students across the school, for all subgroups.
  • Demographic distributions of student suspensions match the demographic distributions of students across the school, for all subgroups.
    • Justifications provided for suspensions should match demographic distributions of students across the school, for all subgroups.
      • That is, we should not see one justification used for one group and another for a different group in the absence of good reasons
  • Demographic distributions of all staff is more diverse..
  • All parents feel welcome in the district and schools and have ample opportunities to be heard.
  • All students feel welcome in the district and schools and have ample opportunities to be heard.
  • All staff feel welcome in the district and schools and have ample opportunities to be heard.
  • Students feel like they belong, that they are honored, that they have a voice, that they can succeed, and that they “see” themselves in the course, the classroom, and school.

We must know how we will identify success:

  • semesterly data analysis of enrollment, grades and assessment, 
  • annual data analysis of matriculation rates
  • annual qualitative review of site-level anti-racist interventions
  • Analysis of how many students of color are accessing new programs and initiatives
    • Are we seeing changes in enrollment and participation for target demographics in new programming?

We must take concrete actions to create success: 

  • paid position/stipend for staff in charge of reviewing and analyzing district data on anti-racist initiatives
  • creation of safe indoor space for students before and after school
  • ethnic studies course requirement for graduation
  • Active teacher and staff recruitment from education programs that graduate greater proportions of education professionals of color (e.g. HBCUs)
  • Creating dedicated multicultural safe spaces on IUSD campuses
  • provide funding for ethnic student organizations (e.g. BSU)
  • provide funding for equity-oriented student organizations (e.g. GSA)

We can do this and we must. And it starts now.

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