In order for all students to achieve at a globally competitive level, their school system needs to be equitable at every level. It needs to meet students where they are and ensure that they receive the necessary supports to be adequately prepared for college, career, and civic life. Yet, our current school system is not set up to be equitable.
Gaps in opportunities exist outside of school and before children arrive to their classrooms. But newer research is confirming what we already knew: that schools, rather than minimizing gaps, further widen them. Schools, or rather, the adults in schools, have the power to exacerbate inequities by the choices they make on which students are sorted into higher- or lower-level classes, or which students are given suspensions. These choices have lasting repercussions on student outcomes.
We must continue to work to change policies at the state and federal level so that districts and schools have equitable access to resources and supports. But there also needs to be a shift in how leaders and educators think about equity within schools. Every school, regardless of its demographic or socioeconomic composition, should be focused on giving students the individual support they need to reach their potential. Equity work, then, cannot be limited to a simple program or practice. Instead, everything that happens during a school day should be done through an equity lens, requiring schools to shift from changing student behavior and mindsets toward changing systems and adult mindsets.
For schools to create an equitable education for children, they need:
- Systems, structures, and adult mindsets that align to the expectation that all students will achieve.
- A positive, relationships-based culture that fosters student belonging and is conducive to high levels of achievement.
- Instruction that centers on what (and which) students learned, with supports to make high achievement possible.
As the places where children spend most of their time learning, we want our schools to reflect the world that we would like to see; to reduce inequity rather than increase it. Years of research from high-performing schools has shown that with the right leader and the right systems in place, it is possible to give students an equitable education. We have plenty of examples that it is possible, and we know which systems are key.
In this report, we detail examples of how leaders changed systems and adult mindsets within their schools to create better opportunities for students. Each of the schools profiled are at different stages in their schoolwide improvement and transformation process, but they provide powerful examples of taking action toward equity around changing systems, structures, and adult mindsets.
With gratitude to the leaders featured in this report:
Be sure to check out the other reports from Accelerate Institute:
Explores how leaders can effectively implement a goal management process at their schools.
Offers a high-level overview of some of the principles Accelerate Institute teaches;
for example, the systematic change needed for a successful school turnaround