As districts nationwide welcome increasingly diverse student populations into their schools, the challenge of providing equitable educational opportunities for all grows. Two articles by Education Northwest staff in the April 2013 edition of Principal Leadership focus on this challenge, offering lessons and research aimed at more equitable outcomes. Both articles draw on the work of the Oregon Leadership Network (OLN), a program administered by Education Northwest.
The article, Lessons on Leading for Equity by Rob Larson and Rhonda Barton, illustrates how 16 districts are collaborating in the OLN to find solutions to the equity challenge. Using knowledge gleaned from the network’s dozen years of work, the authors describe four “broad ‘lessons’ for principals and other leaders who seek to address practices that marginalize students from underrepresented groups”:
- Start with the leaders
- Understand the difference between equal and equitable
- Use disaggregated data to drive all decisions
- Provide high-quality staff development in equitable practices
In addition to providing examples from OLN member districts around these lessons, the article discusses OLN’s development of the Leadership for Equity Assessment & Development (LEAD) Tool. The LEAD Tool is a research-based series of rubrics to guide school-based equity practices. Through the rubrics, leadership teams collectively examine their practice and enact the 10 high-leverage equitable practices most likely to eliminate race, class, and other group-based disparities in student opportunities and outcomes.
Barton and Larson summarize, “Leading for equity is hard, yet inspiring, work: It requires thoughtful and bold conversations about race and poverty, close examination of policies and practices, and astute attention to a variety of data and evidence of student achievement, progress, and success. Above all, it requires a willingness to look deeply at one’s beliefs and attitudes and to reflect on how those attitudes play out in daily practice.”
Another article, Eliminating Disparities by staff researcher Vicki Nishioka, examines the research on discrepancies in exclusionary discipline policies and practices. Nishioka points out that disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates are more often the result of inequitable discipline practices than differences in behavior between students of color and their white peers. Referencing research she writes, “Removing students from classroom instruction for disciplinary reasons may explain some of the achievement gap between White students and students of color.”
The article offers nine practices schools have used to reduce discipline disparities, including leading through collaboration and by example; using data to identify problems and inform decision making; and developing positive, caring relationships with each student.
Members of the National Association of Secondary School Principals and Principal Leadership subscribers can read the full issue on the NASSP website.