The pursuit of educational equity is rooted in the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education. This pivotal Supreme Court education decision celebrates its 65th anniversary this year. Today, we are still striving to reach the aspirations of Brown for each of our students, and the critical mission of educational equity rests at present with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015.
The success of NSBA’s recent Equity Symposium exemplifies the continuing quest of our nation’s school boards to achieve educational equity for each public school student in every state. This fourth annual symposium underscored the responsibility of local school boards to ensure educational equity is a top priority in their respective school districts.
Like many other states, Maryland has directed considerable efforts at both the state and local levels toward facilitating and equipping local boards of education to achieve an equitable education for each of the state’s 900,000 students.
To focus and help lead Maryland school boards in this vital undertaking, the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) formed a large, active ad hoc Equity Committee with a diverse representation from small to large and rural to urban school districts.
Over the last two years, this committee has developed, and the board of directors approved:
A definition of educational equity: “For MABE, educational equity in Maryland means providing access to essential academic, social, emotional, and economic supports in order to engage each student in rigorous instruction with appropriate educational resources to achieve their highest potential.”
An equity core value for the association: “We champion educational equity and excellence for each student.”
An association strategic plan goal for 2019-2024: “Assist member boards in developing a shared understanding and vision of educational equity; by helping them to formulate and implement an equity policy that provides educational equity for each student by creating and maintaining equitable, inclusive, and diverse environments.”
Building on the work achieved by Washington, Arizona, and Oregon the committee then created an Equity Lens Tool.
The Maryland State Board adopted a regulation in December 2018 requiring every local board of education in the state to adopt an Educational Equity Policy that is consistent with the new requirements. In light of that action, the committee fashioned a sample educational equity policy to assist Maryland boards in developing an educational equity policy for their school districts.
The desired outcomes and guidelines sections of the sample policy build on several existing Maryland school district policies, Oregon’s model policy, and Maryland’s requirements for local education equity policies.
Every school and worksite within the school system will embody a culture of respect grounded in the board’s core values, that promotes understanding, respect, civility, acceptance, and positive interaction among all individuals and groups.
Structural and institutional barriers to educational and employment opportunities will be eliminated.
Districtwide and individual school-level disaggregated data will be used systematically to analyze trends, identify gaps, and seek equitable solutions in order to inform school-level and district decision making.
Achievement of all students will be raised while narrowing the gap between the lowest- and the highest-performing students.
Predictability and disparity will be significantly reduced and ultimately eliminated in all aspects of education and its administration, including but not limited to, the disproportionate representation of students by race, poverty, gender, sexual orientation, and national origin in discipline, special education, and in advanced learning.
Each student will graduate with the narrowing of gaps in disaggregated GPA and be ready to succeed in a diverse local, national, and global community.
Every school and worksite within the school system will be free of discriminatory acts of hate, violence, insensitivity, and disrespect.
Educational outcomes shall not be predictable by actual or perceived personal characteristics, and gaps in student achievement will be significantly reduced and ultimately eliminated.
Our students and staff will become models of civility, acceptance, respect, and positive interactions in the community.
The educational experiences of all students will be enriched by providing exposure to staff from many backgrounds reflecting the pluralistic nature of the community, thereby providing settings for education that promote an understanding of diversity and contribute to the quality of the exchange of ideas inherent in the educational setting.
To achieve educational equity, the school system will strive to:
- Reflect a philosophy that social identifiers are a valued asset.
- Base actions on the goal of providing educational equity for each student, no matter their social identifiers.
- Direct the use of resources to provide equitable access to educational opportunities and services, even when this means differentiating resource allocation.
- Identify partnerships with the Maryland State Department of Education, other agencies, and stakeholders, to provide tailored and differentiated professional learning designed to build capacity for cultural responsiveness to address areas of inequality identified by the school system.
- Require that an equity lens be used in reviews of staff, including administrators, teacher and instructional leader candidates, curriculum, pedagogy, professional learning, instructional materials, and assessment design.
- Ensure equitable access to effective teachers for each student.
- Provide the access and opportunity for all students to successfully read on grade level by the end of second grade.
- Direct that equity be addressed in the Local Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Consolidated Plan/Master Plan.
- Designate an individual responsible for the facilitation, monitoring, and implementation of the school system equity initiatives within the Local ESSA Consolidated Strategic Plan.
- Identify the school system’s process for developing goals, objectives, strategies, and timelines for implementation of equitable practices in each school and the methods for measuring the effect of equitable practices in local schools.
- Review existing policies, programs, professional development, and procedures for the promotion of educational equity, and all applicable new policies, programs, and procedures will be developed using an educational equity lens tool and with educational equity as a priority.
- Actively work toward a balanced teacher and administrator workforce to reflect the diversity of the student body. The district seeks to recruit, employ, support, and retain a workforce that includes racial, gender, and linguistic diversity.
- Provide professional development to strengthen employees’ knowledge and skills for eliminating opportunity gaps that lead to disparities in achievement.
- Create schools with a welcoming, inclusive culture and environment that reflects and supports the diversity of the student population, their families, and their community.
- Include partners who have demonstrated culturally specific expertise, in meeting our high goals for educational outcomes. The district shall involve students, staff, families, and community members who reflect district demographics to inform decisions regarding the narrowing of the achievement and other opportunity gaps.
- Provide multiple pathways to success to meet the needs of the diverse student body and actively encourage, support, and expect high academic achievement for each student.
Frances H. Glendening (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE). Stephen C. Bounds (email@example.com) is the director of legal and policy services at MABE.