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    Institutionalizing Racial Equity in Seattle Schools
    Posted on 01/24/2018
    A student paints in the classroom

    Institutionalizing Racial Equity in Seattle Schools

    Every student deserves equitable access to a high-quality education. The Seattle Public Schools’ initiative — Eliminate Opportunity Gaps (EOG)—goes beyond measuring state test scores to include rates of graduation, attendance and discipline among other measures in order to foster educational excellence and equity for every student.

    Our EOG work is a focused effort to provide access and opportunities to our students who have historically been underserved. For the fourth consecutive year, the Seattle School Board has made this a priority and targeted specific funding to implement concrete initiatives and strategies.

    We have committed to eliminating opportunity gaps so each and every student is prepared for their future. This is the most important work of our time.

    Strategies to Eliminate the Gaps

    Here is a look at some of our strategies we are using the address gaps and create equity.

    Face the truth to raise awareness: We have intentionally identified eliminating opportunity gaps as the moral imperative of our time. Being willing to face uncomfortable truths provides the opportunity for change.

    Racial equity teams: Teacher-leaders and school leadership are leading sensitive and critical discussions with their colleagues about race and equity in our schools. Forty-one of our schools have Racial Equity Teams. They are leading the way, retooling the system to uplift and affirm students of color.

    Learning from each other: Principals and educators at schools leading the state in eliminating gaps are sharing with colleagues their emerging practices. Learning from each other is powerful. This work is in strong partnership with the Seattle Education Association and Principal Association of Seattle Schools.

    Academics and belonging: Schools successfully eliminating the gap are also the ones earning high marks from students for having positive student-teacher relationships and school climate. Research shows a student is more successful when they believe that an adult in their school believes in them. We instituted a moratorium on elementary suspensions and use student responses to school climate surveys to address gaps and increase student belonging. Suspensions are declining, and the gap is narrowing.

    Clear goals around race and equity: At the school level, continuous school improvement plans have equity goals embedded within them. At the district level, the superintendent has one of his four major goals assigned by the Board of Directors dedicated to EOG.

    Professional development focused on equity: All district-offered professional development includes considerable emphasis on how to eliminate opportunity gaps.

    Focusing on identity safety: Identity safety has been a critical focus area for the last year culminating in an ethnic studies program initiative. Programs such as My Brother’s Keeper and My Sister’s Keeper for middle-school aged African Americans and Latino students are yielding positive results.

    Using targeted universalism: We have focused on our traditionally most underserved population, African American males, with the idea that if we can create the conditions of success for these students, the improved systems will benefit every student.

    Ensuring Racial Equity, Policy #0030: Second in the nation to adopt such a policy, we are leveraging it to move our programs/priorities forward. The district also uses a race/equity analysis in making decisions. Read Policy #0030.

    Community engagement focus: Efforts have been made to honor the community’s knowledge. Fueled by the Equity and Race Advisory committee, many equity innovations have occurred ranging from Policy #0030 to race and equity training. The African American Advisory committee has provided the impetus and guidance to have a more robust and authentic community engagement model that has been adopted by our board.

    Our Continuing Commitment

    Evolving our educational system into one that is equitable for all students is complex but morally and socially just.

    We are challenged to work differently, across silos and with partners, families, students and each other. It requires reflection on our own practice and the courage to change. It requires we are unyielding in our pursuit of social justice and equity and that we keep the focus on students against all odds.

    Students need to know they will receive unconditional care and support in our schools. From the bus stop to the board room, we are relentless in our pursuit of ensuring racial equity.