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Equity 401: Justice Lessons
Posted by Crystal Kimpson Roberts on 12/12/2022
When I sent my three sons to school during their compulsory school attendance years, I had high expectations that they would achieve great things. I also had high expectations of the principal and teachers who had access to their minds and spirits for at least six hours a day. I wished for them an educational experience that they would look forward to every day. Idealistic? Perhaps. But at the very least they deserved to be treated justly and to have equitable access to learning opportunities. I questioned, advocated, and challenged consistently.
Being asked to assist with one of the DPS Equity and Professional Development department’s Equity 401 interactive presentations gave me hope that there are professionals– privileged with access to young, impressionable minds and souls– who truly want the same for their students that parents like me wanted.
The presentation was so engaging, informative, and appreciated that of the 600 attendees, at least 100 stayed after the presentation to ask follow-up questions, ask for guidance, and share.
“As an Office, we realized the necessity of cultivating a space where we were able to begin shifting our thinking and learning around what it means to be agents of change in education, making it more practical and authentic to the needs and experiences of DPS educators and staff. The purpose of this session was to highlight the importance of equity-focused work not being a sole responsibility of administrators and teachers, but all staff, students and even our community partners and stakeholders,” said Dr. Iwinosa Idahor, the department’s Student Engagement and Opportunity Coordinator.
Programs and work are data-driven, which empower both the department and its stakeholders to courageously advocate for all students.
“In creating the structures for this session, it was important for us to center district data, increase teacher agency and ultimately, enhance student experiences in school. A goal of our Office is that these sessions will evoke a ferocious sense of hope, care and urgency in our equity work, considering the opposition that has become even more covert over the last several months,” said Dr. Idahor.
About Equity Affairs
Equity Affairs was established in 2017; in 2022, the office became Equity and Professional Development. Its goals are to:
Collaborate with various departments and school leaders to analyze data (i.e. Graduation and discipline data for students of color; Black and Latinx enrollment in AIG, Honors, AP/IB classes; recruitment and retention of high quality educators of color, etc.), and develop action plans to address disparities (Strategic Plan Goals 1A, 1B, 1C, 2B, and 3B).
Design and facilitate professional development for educators that focuses on racial equity, implicit bias, and culturally responsive teaching (Strategic Plan Goals 1A, 1B, 1C, 2B, and 3B)
Increase/enhance partnerships with community organizations that can support the work of addressing educational inequities (Strategic Plan Goals 1A, 4B, 4C).
Identify, apply for, and manage grants and research that will support the work of equity in the district and help to eliminate academic disproportionalities (Strategic Plan Goals 1A, 4B, 4C)
Establish mechanisms for effective communication with stakeholders (Strategic Plan Goals 4B, 4C).
“Our commitment to equity across the district continues to manifest in multiple ways and across departments, emphasizing the belief that equity is more than just a buzzword but an integral part of meeting the goals of our district strategic plan and adhering to Dr. Mubenga’s non-negotiables. As more professional learning occurs around equity-focused topics, we have been able to notice shifts in policies, practices and expectations in multiple areas including our dress code policy, child nutrition, and human resources.,” siad Dr. Idahor.
In 2019, Equity Affairs introduced a series of learning modules designed to introduce and immerse teachers into the work of educational equity. These leaders have also facilitated the development of an educational equity policy based on five pillars:
A. Disrupt and Dismantle Systemic Inequities to Eliminate the Opportunity Gap
B. Honor and Strengthen the Connections between Home and School
C. Address Social and Emotional Well Being of Students and Staff
D. Ensure Access & Representation in Academic Programming in Schools
E. Build Staff Capacity for Equity-Centered Practices
Data, coupled with testimonies from educators and staff who have participated in the professional learning opportunities offered by Equity Affairs, uphold the department’s work.
“At the core of our work is going back to the mission and vision of our Office–ensuring that students experience educational equity regardless of race, ethnicity or any other identifiers, and addressing inequities due to disparities found in various data sets,” said Dr. Idahor. “We strive to use various forms of data to illuminate and amplify the perspectives and experiences of DPS students and staff. The intentional use of data is also used to ground us as equity-focused practitioners–reminding us of our ‘Why?’ along with our ‘What, So What, and Now What?’ as poignantly stated by education pioneer, Dr. Dudley Flood.”