Prior to COVID-19, in 2019 district leaders attended a cultural proficiency training in Denver hosted by Western Educational Equity and Access Center (WEEAC). That training inspired conversations within the district on this very topic and the lack of traction the district had gained thus far in its efforts to support all students in finding educational success, especially those marginalized.
The district and staff are aware of gaps in how our students perform, and the lack of positive movement for those students who are not achieving as highly as their peers. We are looking for a transformation from unintentional practices that yield unintended results, to intentional, strategic practices that are effective in our efforts to make strides in removing implicit biases, creating awareness of those biases and developing conscious overrides to remove barriers for students.
It's everyone’s responsibility to collaborate to ensure we open doors and don’t unintentionally close doors. This is the exact work of another school district highlighted in the book Opening Doors, and the story on how they did this work successfully. This affords a great starting point for us as we begin our journey to ensure that we have a school district that is aligned in the vision on cultural proficiency within our district, and how we can collaboratively utilize our tools and resources to ensure we have intentional and strategic goals and action items identified to make positive strides in this area across the district.
There is a lot to learn from another school district that took on this work and had strong results. There is a lot to be said about a method for evaluating the impact of educational decisions on students' access to learning and how we can make cultural proficiency a reality across the district.
Education is at the heart of social justice as we are a huge player in determining the type of key that children will hold in their hands as adults in our society. As educators, our goal must be to ensure that every child holds a key that opens any door they choose in society. Despite hard work by many, too many of our youth in the United States continue to leave the educational system with a key that opens one, very limited door in life that relegates them to a lifetime of adversity.
Engaging in this type of work requires a creation of a safe and supportive environment for engaging staff in this work and you need to have common language. This allows us to get grounded in this work. This work won’t be completed overnight, it is a journey and this is one of many steps the district can take as we work to get centered and aligned on this topic. ‘How can we as educational leaders describe and define how we serve students?”
Strong communities produce strong schools, and strong schools produce strong communities.
We are going to start with the first layer, which is beginning with school and district leadership, identified educators within the organization, and the Board of Education to read this together and begin to work through the practice of examining our own structures, practices and policies to ensure that they open doors, not close doors, for our students. That is a good place to begin the self-evaluation and the alignment work within the district. Providing frameworks from a group has done this, and there are always highlights and learning we can glean from this deep process to adopt the practices that truly helped move staff, the schools and the districts. The story shared in the book Opening Doors demonstrated that the work ultimately resulted in gains in assessment scores, graduation rates, attendance rates and many other areas that are indicators of success in education.
We will use this to guide our reflection, and to help lead us through our reflection, on our current process, policies and systems to ensure that we are not unintentionally participating in practices that inhibit student success.
This work is to bring people together, to learn and grow collectively together, to the benefit of every single student in our schools and our community. It will take every educator in our district engaged in this work.