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Equity Symposium 2018: Identifying & eradicating discriminatory practices, prejudices & beliefs

Before an audience of more than 400 education leaders, educators, and public-school advocates from across the country, NSBA President Kevin Ciak opened the 3rd annual Equity Symposium with the association’s newly established vision of educational equity, projected on the screen behind him.

“We affirm in our actions that each student can, will, and shall learn. We recognize that based on factors including, but not limited to, disability, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status, students are deprived of equitable educational opportunities. Educational equity is the intentional allocation of resources, instruction, and opportunities according to need, requiring that discriminatory practices, prejudices, and beliefs be identified and eradicated.”

Tom Gentzel, NSBA’s Executive Director and CEO, reinforced the significance of the vision statement in his opening remarks, saying that “equity is not just a word; it’s driving our work and we’re committed to it.”

Held Feb. 3 in Washington, D.C., the Symposium’s first general session featured New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones, who took a hard look at racial segregation in housing and schools. She noted that, at age 41, she is the first generation of African-Americans born with the full rights of citizenship.

“Many of today’s equity challenges are deeply embedded in our culture,” said Hannah-Jones. “The solutions however, lie in whether we ask the right question and when we do, whether we are willing to do the right thing.”

The afternoon at Equity Symposium brought a panel of high school and college students offering their perspectives of educational equity.

“Teachers show you on the first day, whether they care about you,” said one student panelist. “You know when they talk with you and connect with you and want to hear your dreams.” 

In answer to the question of what educational equity means to them, one student wondered “if what I am learning in school is the same as what others are learning.”

“Educational equity is knowing that every student has a dream and giving them what they need to achieve it,” said another.

Following sets of workshops and clinic sessions, academic, lecturer, and author Robin DiAngelo, closed the conference with a conversation about racism.

“None of us are exempted from the forces of racism,” said DiAngelo. However, “caring is not enough without action.”

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