Policy: Diversity and Equity
Universal screening, some school districts say, makes access to gifted education more fair—but costs can be high.
This article encourages readers to reflect on the following questions related to anti-bias anti-racist (ABAR) practices and policies in schools:
If this is the first time your school has focused on ABAR, why is it a priority now?
How will you ensure ABAR is not just a box to check, and that no one is able to opt out?
How will BIPOC be centered in this work?
How will BIPOC be supported in this work?
How are you working to create long-lasting change in your community?
The students laid out their demands in a six-page letter addressed to the school board and district leadership.
After the statements, school board president Michael Decarreau addressed the students.
- the formation of a Racial Truth and Reconciliation Commission tasked with hearing about past occurrences of racial bias and prejudice in the Winooski School District;
the formation of an Anti-Racism Committee in the 2020-21 school year through which students can report discrimination;
the replacement of the school resource officer with two trauma specialists;
an action plan for hiring teachers of color;
the requirement to incorporate components of an ethnic studies curriculum and anti-racism pedagogy in the K-12 curriculum;
the formation of a committee to evaluate current curriculum, teaching practices and policy to ensure they conform to contemporary ethnic studies and anti-racism standards;
biannual workshops to educate and support students and their parents on advocating for themselves;
and a mentorship program for English language learners that connects those students with community mentors to help with language skills and advocacy.
Black Lives Matter. Thus, Black Lives Matter at school. Because of this resolve, we must ensure schools are a place of liberation. We demand the following:
End the School-to-Prison Pipeline
Equitable Funding and Resource Allocation
Responsive Curriculum and Systems of Evaluation
Recruit and Retain Educators of Color
Students have advocated for curriculum reform before in American history. But this moment is unique in several ways: For one thing, it’s taking place in the midst of a pandemic that has plunged the nation into crisis. Still, the shifting of human interaction online has actually played into students’ hands — more adept at social media than adults, teens are making canny use of sites such as Facebook and Instagram to plan reforms, put pressure on school officials and draw inspiration from other activists.
It’s important to keep in mind that racial equity issues also intersect with matters relating to other demographic groups, such as gender and class. Breaking up data only by race may reveal that Black students disproportionately receive disciplinary action, as is true in many schools across the country. But adding in gender may uncover connections between race, gender, and specific disciplinary policies, such as how school dress codes often discriminate against Black girls. Collecting and then disaggregating for a variety of demographic factors can help uncover such inequities. (Ford, 2020)
To some, white supremacy only means extreme violence and calculated menace from an era we have left behind—white hoods gathered at night beneath burning crosses. Time may have passed, but white hoods have transformed into police uniforms, teaching attire, corporate suits and business casual garb on the streets of our nation.
In our education system, it shows up in school policies that ban Black children from wearing their hair in natural styles or when schools don’t bother to translate important communication for non-English speaking families. It shows up as a noticeable difference in vendors who resemble the student population and serve the school community in a social sense—not simply business. It shows when districts post equity statements and continue to ignore widening achievement gaps between their white students and students of color—or low literacy rates among their African American students. (Jones, 2020)
A new upsurge in polling data on school integration offers some broader context for what I heard in Richmond. Overall, 53 percent of Americans say the federal government should take steps to reduce racial segregation in schools. Marked variations by race are apparent, though: 43 percent of white respondents thought the federal government should intervene to reduce racial segregation compared to 78 percent of black and 76 percent of Hispanic respondents, according to a Gallup poll released in the fall of 2019. When asked if it was important that children of different races go to school together, about 81 percent of families, on average, agreed, according to a separate Harvard-based poll from the same time period. Support was roughly even across geography (e.g., urban, suburban, rural), political parties, race, and gender. And there were signs that support for racially diverse schools was rising in today’s divisive political climate. (Siegel‐Hawley, 2020)
The Secret Shame: How America’s Most Progressive Cities Betray Their Commitment to Educational Opportunity for All
Public education is central to American democracy. Ideally, children from every area of our country can graduate from effective and well-resourced schools that prepare them equally for active citizenship and meaningful lives. Yet, the conditions in our schools are not ideal. Schools across the U.S. tend to struggle with educating black and Latino students when compared to their white peers. This is the case even in cities where there is notable progress on other important issues like immigration, health care and neighborhood revitalization. In fact, as we show in this report, highly prosperous cities with progressive residents have particularly poor outcomes for children living at the margins. It is ironic that this is happening for children living in cities that are best positioned to reverse the nation’s shameful education “achievement gap.” (Brightbeam, 2020)
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But this exact strategy — gerrymandering school districts to include certain kinds of students and exclude others — can also be used to integrate a school, rather than segregate them.
In America, there is already a massive amount of residential segregation, shaped by a long history of racist government policies. This is why everyone going to the nearest school perpetuates very segregated classrooms. But using school zones, we can actually gerrymander these lines so we’re not recreating the underlying segregation. (Chang, 2018)
This work of disrupting inequities needs to be done because the privileged and those in power continue to widen the gap between themselves and those without opportunities. As educators, we must seek justice and equity for our students. It is our responsibility to call out flaws in our education system without fear or apprehension. And, as grading policies are systemic structures that have contributed to racism and injustice, it is also our responsibility to call out inequitable grading practices.
That is why, on July 14, we sent letters to members of the Congressional Black Caucus urging support for a proposal to expand educational freedom and opportunity. In a time of crisis, those entrusted with the power to protect and serve our communities must rise to the occasion and ensure learning continues for all children in America. They know that a high-quality education has the power to change the life of a child in unassailable ways, just as a low-quality, inequitable education has the power to stifle the minds of students, especially those from low-income and minority communities. By law, parents face arrest for not sending their kids to school, but the law doesn’t provide a choice for parents to send them to a quality school. (Merriweather and Blanks, 2020)