Why race equity plans matter for Minnesota schools

It’s a question many outside of education ask: Create yet another plan Minnesota schools should follow? After all,  select Minnesota schools have to complete School Improvement Plans, provide on-going reports to the Minnesota Department of Education, and report at times directly to the U.S. Department of Education. But evidence shows Race Equity Plans have real power and measurable success in creating race equity for schools and building momentum for communities to develop collective action for equity.

Race Equity Plans detail the historical and structural aspects at the root of school racial inequalities that have resulted in an education debt that most be fixed.  In addition, they’re built from key dialogues and recommendations from and within communities of color to address ongoing education equity. These dialogues serve to create new policies and structures collectively supported by the communities, families , students, and teachers they will most impact. Race Equity Plans also support a community-wide commitment to a race equity and outline accountability measures to monitor progress on a community’s collective goals.

No longer is it sufficient to provide a single diversity training solely for teachers in order to address racially disparate academic outcomes. According to Harvard Achievement Gap Institute director Dr. Ron Ferguson, “In the context of a movement for excellence with equity, it is important to view the changing cultural norms in schools, homes, and youth peer groups as collective action projects requiring organizers and leadership, not adjustments that individuals will carry out in isolation without regard for others’ responses.” (Toward Excellence with Equity, p.288)

And authors McAffee, Blackwell, and Bell bring strong attention to the importance of planning such collective action projects with race equity principles – understanding the historical and structural aspects that underlie the current day outcomes and institutional practices and behaviors. (“Equity: The Soul of Collective Impact,” p.8)

Race Equity Plans – Some Impactful Models  

Portland Public Schools

Portland Public Schools in Portland, Oregon, were chosen as true pioneers of race equity in their school districts. In 2011, they approved the Racial Educational Equity Policy, which applied  a race equity lens to policy and practice. They focused on equal outcomes as opposed to equal inputs, and are dedicated to ensuring the success of every student. They created improvements in culturally responsive teaching and learning; balancing student enrollment in order to better provide students of color with equitable access to resources and education; have ensured culturally responsive family and community engagement; and have partnered with outside organizations to provide professional development to teachers and leaders to help strengthen the dialogue on race equity and encourage race equity transformation.

In addition, an Equity and Inclusion Council monitors successful implementation and advises leaders within the schools on the process of transformational change.  Their goals at every level are based on data disaggregated by race and ethnicity to increase accountability for meeting the needs of specific groups of students.  To support this, they have adopted culturally relevant data and research practices.  (See: (https://www.pps.net/cms/lib/OR01913224/Centricity/Domain/51/3.31.14%20Five%20Year%20Equity%20Plan%20Narrative-2.pdf)

Roseville Area Schools

In 2014, Roseville Area Schools in Roseville, Minnesota, adopted their Equity and Integration Plan that focuses on family and community engagement and seeks to provide professional development to teachers and leaders within the school district to become more culturally competent.

Additionally, the plan outlines the goal of providing additional or differentiated resources to students of color to mitigate the racial disparity gap, including integrated environments, targeted intervention, and culturally relevant curriculum; and hire and retain racially and ethnically diverse staff.

The school district is also using the Educational Equity Analysis Framework and a Vision Equity Score Card to identify, support, and document changes made to create more educationally equitable policies, practices, and structures.  (See: https://www.isd623.org/sites/isd623.org/files/StrategicRoadmap.pdf)

Mille Lacs Promise to Act

With the assistance of the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (MnEEP), the Mille Lacs region in Central Minnesota engaged in a collective action process by centering community voices to produce its Equity Action Plan. Since 2014, “A Promise to Act: Education Equity and Excellence for All of Our Children” has been a roadmap for Mille Lacs region school leaders and community leaders to collaboratively engage in school board staff equity trainings, shift school policies, and create a greater awareness of American Indian students and disparate educational impacts. (See:https://mneep.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Mille-Lacs-Area-Promise-to-Act-Plan.pdf)

At the Minnesota Education Equity Partnership, we continue to assist school leaders and communities think about collectively building a Race Equity Action Plan.  We are doing important research on these processes and methods to create impactful Plans. If you would like more information about these processes and Plan developments, please contact us at jgodinez@mneep.org

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