District Leaders Study Race, Equity, and Social Justice Standards

District Leaders Study Race, Equity, and Social Justice Standards
Posted on 08/16/2020
This is the image for the news article titled District Leaders Study Race, Equity, and Social Justice StandardsThis summer, Deidre Roemer, Director of Leadership and Learning, her team members, and Student Services personnel implemented a Professional Development program centered on our District's equity non-negotiables. School leaders met weekly around a book study; with presentations and discussions about race, equity, and social justice standards.

The program culminated with a visit from Dr. Christopher Emdin, Associate Professor of Science Education at the Teachers College and Director of Science Education at the Center for Health Equity and Urban Science Education at Columbia University.

“As a leadership team, we have been working on Deeper Learning as the pathway to equity for the last three years. We have had several staff and leaders attend the Integrated Comprehensive Systems Equity Institute and went through the modules as a full team. After the last module, we developed our Equity Nonnegotiables, which are the foundational beliefs that frame our work for all learners and our greater community. These were adopted by our school board as beliefs in June 2019 and embedded into our strategic plan when we did a refresh in February 2020. We had been planning our summer workshop for our school leaders in the late spring when the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor brought international attention to the need for urgency in our equity work,” said Roemer.

“For the first time ever, we offered a summer workshop to a combined team of our student services staff (counselors, school psychologists, and school social workers) and our leadership team (principals, district office staff, instructional coaches, assistant principals and deans). We framed each week around one of the Social Justice Anchor Standards.”

The first week Identity was explored. Leaders talked about strategies for having crucial conversations about race in schools and how to make space for everyone to share their thoughts and experiences as a community of learners. Some of the standards ask students to be able to:

- Students develop positive social identities based on their membership in multiple groups in society.
- Students develop language and historical and cultural knowledge that affirm and accurately describe their membership in multiple identity groups.
- Students recognize that people’s multiple identities interact and create unique and complex individuals.

The second week was framed around listening to the voices of Diversity. In this session, leaders explored the need to not only recognize that people come from diverse backgrounds, but to be sure we are hearing about those backgrounds and learning from our students and families. Articles and videos were shared to help leaders understand how to facilitate conversations in a respectful and supportive way and address moments of challenge when someone is not feeling included in the community based on their diverse background. Some of the standards in this anchor ask that students can:

- Students respectfully express curiosity about the history and lived experiences of others and will exchange ideas and beliefs in an open-minded way.
- Students respond to diversity by building empathy, respect, understanding and connection.
- Students examine diversity in social, cultural, political and historical contexts rather than in ways that are superficial or oversimplified.

Week three focused on Justice. Leaders watched video clips that demonstrated historical incidents of injustice and then discussed those in small groups. They talked about their own community and ways they can influence change so our staff, students, and families are working to ensure inequities are eliminated. Some of the standards in this anchor ask that students can:

- Students recognize stereotypes and relate to people as individuals rather than representatives of groups.
- Students recognize unfairness on the individual level (e.g., biased speech) and injustice at the institutional or systemic level (e.g., discrimination).
- Students analyze the harmful impact of bias and injustice on the world, historically, and today.

The fourth (and final) week was centered on Action. Leaders watched videos, read articles and made plans for how to take action in our schools to ensure everyone is included and we confront the inequities that are often created by large systems. Some of the standard in this anchor ask that student can:

- Students recognize their own responsibility to stand up to exclusion, prejudice and injustice.
- Students speak up with courage and respect when they or someone else has been hurt or wronged by bias.
- Students make principled decisions about when and how to take a stand against bias and injustice in their everyday lives and will do so despite negative peer or group pressure.

“Our workshop was very powerful -- we learned and grew together. We had times of discomfort as we faced the inequities we know exist within our systems and we talked about ways to dismantle them. We also had many hopeful moments as our leaders shared their stories. Now, we’re making plans to mobilize our equity non-negotiables and working to embed the deeper learning competencies across all contexts. We want our learners to be problem solvers and collaborators so they have all the skills needed to influence meaningful change in our world today,” adds Roemer.

Book List
The books read by leaders this summer were:

How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: In his memoir, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science--including the story of his own awakening to antiracism--bringing it all together in a cogent, accessible form. He begins by helping us rethink our most deeply held, if implicit, beliefs and our most intimate personal relationships (including beliefs about race and IQ and interracial social relations) and reexamines the policies and larger social arrangements we support. How to Be an Antiracist promises to become an essential book for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step of contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today's racial landscape--from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement--offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide.

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum: Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. This fully revised edition is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of race in America.

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo: The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.