- The Broward County Public Schools' Department of Equity and Diversity has produced its first cohort of 300 educators trained as equity liaisons, David Watkins, director of equity and diversity for the Florida district, writes in eSchool News.
- The initiative is based on three core pillars, the first being that the effort must be districtwide. In order to accomplish this, the district partnered with PCG Education in training the new equity liaisons through an online course entitled Courageous Conversations about Race and used the conversations to develop a common vocabulary concerning equity.
- The second pillar is getting teachers to support the work of improving equity, which the district did by partnering with the Broward County Teachers Union. The union developed and implemented a plan in which the liaisons train principals, teachers and staff members. The final pillar is creating incentives for educators to become trained equity liaisons. They receive small stipends, and because the district is using an accredited provider, the teachers can receive professional learning credits for their training.
Finding ways to narrow opportunity gaps for students can be complicated by the fact that terms such as equity are not always used or understood in the same way by all stakeholders. Some define equity primarily in terms of access to educational opportunities, while others see equity primarily in terms of access to resources such as funding or digital access. As school districts become increasingly diverse, what was once seen as a primarily a racial issue now also affects students of many different cultures, backgrounds, and abilities.
In a 2013 policy briefing, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) explained that the two dimensions essential to educational equity are fairness and inclusion. Fairness often means something more than equality because different students have different needs. Inclusion means that no one is left out of the educational equation.
As schools struggle to define equity and develop policies for attaining it, some are hiring chief diversity or integration officers to oversee the process. Others are turning to committees to implement new initiatives. While leadership is essential in communicating goals around equity, professional development is also an important part of giving educators ways to connect academic instruction and school culture. Schools can also include students in those efforts and create opportunities for intergroup contact to increase a sense of belonging.
Whether or not leaders are hired or new positions are created for these roles, school district leaders and principals are essential to the implementation and success of any equity initiative. “We have also seen district leaders play a critical role in helping principals develop and maintain a strong school culture," Irma Zardoya, former president and chief executive officer of the New York City Leadership Academy, noted in an Education Week article. "Research has found that schools where students feel safe, engaged and connected to their teachers often have narrower achievement gaps. Principals have more influence over their schools' culture than anyone else in the buildings, and they need guidance on promising practices and strategies, and latitude from the district to try new approaches to address inequities.”