By Meg Stentz
What would it mean to create an equity audit at your school? What learning would you uncover if you set out to examine the gap between passing rates and true college readiness? This is just one of the powerful ideas that surfaced among school leaders at the MC Winter Quarterly meeting.
For three years now, the Mastery Collaborative community has partnered with the Center for Racial Justice in Education (formerly Border Crossers) to offer workshops on race, racism, and education for hundreds of teachers, counselors, and school leaders. During these leveled workshops, skillful facilitators guide participants in unlearning the racism that we all absorb living in a white supremacist culture. In Level 1, facilitators unpack the idea that race is socially constructed, but has very real consequences. Participants get a brief but powerful history of race and racism in the United States. They learn to identify how racism manifests in ideology, institutions, interpersonal interactions, and internally. In Level 2 the focus is on role playing scenarios that involve race and school, practicing breathing before responding, and importantly, “naming race” in how we analyze and handle each scenario. This year, the MC has launched a Level 3 workshop-style training where participant teams translate their understandings of Culturally Responsive Teaching into their classroom context and unit plans. Taken together these trainings are meant to equip educators to engage more openly in addressing race when it comes up in their classrooms and schools, but many participants leave ready to carry their learning into other spheres as well.
The impact of this collective learning was on full display last month when we asked MC members at a community-wide meeting to work in discipline-alike groups and huddle around this, among other, questions: How can we dismantle a focus on whiteness in favor of a more anti-racist approach?
The ideas that sprang up from these initial conversations are rich. We wanted to share the thinking of some of our school leaders about how antiracism can be, is, and should be, enacted in schools:
Integrate the “Respect for All” plan in the PD curriculum
Create relational trust and dialogue. Speak from your own positionality and your own stories.
As a leader, model apology, acknowledge what hasn’t worked, and position yourself as a learner. This sets the tone for staff to engage in difficult learning too.
Conduct a quantitative equity audit. Examine gaps between passing rates and college readiness rates. Look at data broken down by race, gender, socioeconomic status, students with IEPs, students who are language learners
Gather student voice through student interviews and surveys. Use this to inform decisions about the school policies and instruction.
Create opportunities for parents to talk to one another, as well as opportunities for students and staff to engage with one another.
Create and use student crews or advisories to discuss issues in the school, in the city, and in the culture.
Words matter. Be thoughtful in how you frame issues, and what vocabulary you use. Know your school community and focus on building partnerships and relationships.
These ideas represent just a few of the first-thoughts that our community suggested. What would you add? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your best practices in antiracist, culturally responsive, mastery-based education.