- Many school districts adopted equity policies in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, but more work is needed to ensure these efforts aren't seen as merely symbolic, Mary Rice-Boothe, chief access and equity officer for The Leadership Academy, a nonprofit focused on helping education leaders disrupt systemic inequities, writes for Edutopia.
- Rice-Boothe suggests a few key components are necessary to make sure equity policies work. Having a common language and shared beliefs is essential to the process, beginning with teachers addressing their own racial consciousness and examining "cycles of socialization" that show what educators may unconsciously be doing that prevents students from being successful.
- Rice-Boothe also advises that districts leverage data to facilitate focus group discussions and ensure feedback comes from diverse groups. After the process is complete, districts can create an action plan that holds stakeholders accountable for improvements.
To further hold themselves accountable to their equity policies, districts can also establish action plans, Rice-Boothe writes. These might, for example, address the way discipline is delivered to make it more equitable for students of color, who are often disproportionately affected by exclusionary discipline practices.
A Learning Policy Institute report released in 2021 demonstrates how informal strategies, such as the use of shared vocabulary, and formal strategies, such as restorative circles and conferences, can reduce exclusionary discipline. The idea of restorative discipline is to create an environment that allows staff and students to express themselves in a positive way and by focusing on the feelings of the speaker.
Bilingual policies also boost equity. Texas’ San Antonio Independent School District adopted an 80-20 immersion model for all of its emergent bilingual students as a way of ensuring equitable access to academics. The immersion program allows native Spanish-speaking students to retain their original language foundation while learning English.
The process starts with a mix of 80% Spanish and 20% English in pre-K, progressively adding more English each year until lessons are delivered equally in both English and Spanish. The process is designed to prevent students from falling behind in core disciplines such as reading and math.
Funding equity in education remains an obstacle, however. A recent report published by the Education Law Center finds the federal government needs to be more involved in K-12 funding systems to ensure money is distributed equitably. The report shows pre-pandemic average per-pupil funding levels in the South and West are below the national average.