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Equity and Innovation

Micah Ali​

I am still floating from excitement and gratitude for the CUBE convening that took place in Las Vegas this September. The sense of purpose and renewed determination on behalf of all attendees was so palatable, I am confident every single person walked away with a deepened commitment to strive further and in new directions on behalf of students in urban schools across the United States.

Two themes came to the forefront that unified the tone and intent of the conference: equity and innovation. District and district leaders honored that day embodied this notion: Missouri’s Jennings School District; the Fort Worth Independent School District, Texas; and North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District. These districts all have made a tremendous impact through their efforts to advance education for all students.

Just as powerful and inspiring were our keynote speakers: Bakari Sellers, Adan Gonzalez, Bryant T. Marks, and Ruben Navarrette, Jr.

As we come down from the high spirits of that day, I wanted to share an excerpt of my remarks from the Urban State of the Association Address I had the honor of delivering as one of my final acts as chairman of CUBE. I hope you can read in these words the theme of equity and innovation and the call to action of transformation.

“Colleagues. I offer you two concepts that require us to look within ourselves with brutal honesty and ask some very difficult questions.

The first concept: diminishing value of marginal utility. It is a macroeconomics term referring to the phenomenon in which, all else being equal, as consumption of a product increases, the marginal utility (or effectiveness or satisfaction) derived from each additional unit declines. Think of the ‘product’ as our approaches to leading our respective urban school districts. Think of the ‘value’ as student outcomes, or even broader, educational equity. Are your approaches yielding the outcomes you desire toward the penultimate end of achieving lasting positive impact? If not, then you may be experiencing diminishing value of marginal utility.

The second concept: collective self-efficacy. This is a more global concept. It is less about you and more about us collectively. Self-efficacy is simply the belief of a member of a group or collective that the group can indeed accomplish something. Do you believe that change—real, true, in-front-of-your-face change—is possible? WE need US to believe that WE can indeed reach the promise land WE have been so earnestly seeking. What are you doing in your district that demonstrates change? If you are wondering what this could look like, I invite you to draw your attention to one of the most powerful tools for transformation available to us: policy.

Finally, I want to leave you with a glimpse of how equity is taking shape in Compton Unified School District through innovative partnerships, implementation of approaches that enhances student learning and student opportunities, and finally through remaining steadfast in believing our students can, do, and will achieve great things!”

Video of the entire speech can be accessed at https://youtu.be/6TkGMHtPdao


Micah Ali (mali@compton.k12.ca.us) is a member of California’s Compton Unified School District and the 2018-19 chair of the CUBE steering committee.

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