Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Courageous Conversations about Race - Part 3 ...and Equity

As a leader, how do you engage your staff in Courageous Conversations and conversations about Equity?

All students can benefit from a focus on equity because an equitable school system is one that works to address the needs of each individual child.

We have developed the following definition for equity:

Educational equity is raising the achievement of all students while:

  • narrowing the gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing students; and
  • eliminating the racial predictability and disproportionality of which student groups occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories

Equity is far more than a state of being or an abstract ideal.  Rather, it is an operational principle that enables educators to provide whatever level of support is needed to whichever students require it.  In the classroom, this means providing each and every student with what each individually needs to learn and succeed. 

Equity is not a guarantee that all students will succeed.  Rather, it assures that all students will have the opportunity and support to succeed.

From:  Courageous Conversations about Race by Glenn Singleton and Curtis Linton
Published by: Corwin Press


  1. As school leaders I think it is imperative to ensure that staff members understand that equity and fairness are not the same. Actually, in many ways fairness negates equity in that, equity refers to leveling the playing field so that all students can start on the same level. In some cases, some students may require more assistance, services and support than others. While fairness is treating everyone the same (even though everyone is not the same and does not start from the same place). Supporting staff in helping them recognize gaps in instructional practices and providing strategies to help them close the gap and meet the needs of all their students, is a step toward educational equity. Student achievement requires supporting teachers in enabling them to ensure the greatest success for their students. Providing the tools that will enable this will help us acheive our shared goal of student success for ALL students.

  2. I really like the definition of Equity above. It is about providing "whatever level of support needed" for each and every student in our school. As leaders in school we need to ensure that we enable all stakeholders to provide that support. This needs to be an individualized approach.

    I understand that Equity does not guarantee all our students will succeed. But we need to be able to look at ourselves and say that we have done everything possible, as leaders and as a school, in providing the individualized support.

  3. When I engage staff in conversations about Equity it is with the understanding that everyone is at a different place on the Equity Continuum. As a leader I remind myself to be patient and to be an active listener to what staff say. Engaging in courageous conversations requires leaders to lead with empathy and patience without being judgmental. This can be quite a challenge...especially if someone makes a statement that causes folks to bristle. A leader must honour that group discomfort and not feel the need to 'make it go away'. This is why 'courageous conversations' are so courageous! As a leader, one must communicate clearly, paraphrase, coach and collaborate with those present to move the conversation forward so that learning and growth takes place. In conjunction with this, the courageous leader must also inspire those early in their equity education to reflect and challenge their own beliefs and biases. While doing this a leader must also recognize that they too carry biases and be honest about that in their conversations with staff. There is no finish line for is an ongoing movement across the continuum with stops and starts...

  4. Hi All,
    I posted a comment the other day on this post and for some reason it is not here :( I apologize if you've already read this...

    As school leaders, we need to ensure that staff members understand that equity and fairness are not one in the same. In fact, fairness negates equity, in that equity refers to the leveling of the playing field to ensure that all students are provided with what they need to succeed. Fairness refers to providing everyone with the same thing. But, as educators we know that students have different abilities and need different supports, resources and tools to succeed.
    Student acheivement requires supporting teachers in enabling them to ensure the greatest success for their students. As school leaders we need to identify and recognize the gaps in instructional programs and practices and ensure that we are supporting teachers in closing the gap and meeting the needs of our students.
    We also need to ensure that the resources, stories and language used in schools reflect the experiences and cultural diversity found in our schools and community.

  5. Hi Janice,

    I agree with everything you've said. As I read it, I got thinking about how much of what you commented on is about reculturing a school. What you've said is 'on the mark'. However, if staff don't hold these beliefs and values, it necessitates a shift in culture. It makes me wonder if I have the knowledge/skills/abilities to shift the culture of a school.

  6. I think it is important that we know our student and staff population and the make up of race, ethnicity, gender etc. in order that we are able address the needs of our students. If we are trying to ensure all stakeholders feel welcome then we need to know what their needs are. These are the stats that direct the classroom, school and community. If teachers are differentiating in the classroom they need to know their students so they can understand their learning styles, intelligences therefore using appropriate resources to provide equity in the class, and as leaders we in the school. In addressing equity as a staff I think it is important that we know our community and look at the data and use this going forward. It is important to have staff buy in and open communication. It is also important to listen to and support staff concerns.