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    Findings from Racial Equity Team Survey Sheds Light on Key SPS Initiative
    Posted on 05/10/2018

    To build our knowledge about how Racial Equity Teams catalyze equity-based systemic improvement in schools – and to inform how the district can best support their efforts – SPS is partnering with the University of Washington College of Education and Seattle Education Association’s Center for Race and Equity to undertake a systematic data collection and inquiry into our RET initiative. Key research questions include how RETs work to build educators’ collective efficacy to address inequities and culturally responsive practices, and what organizational conditions hinder or foster these efforts. Pending the acquisition of grant funding, we hope to conduct future research to improve RET effectiveness by co-designing and implementing new tools that support best practice and build capacity across the system.

    The research began with a 2016-17 survey co-developed by UW researchers and District and SEA partners. Administered to RET members and all other staff in 32 schools, the survey was designed to illuminate the efforts and focus of existing RETs, and the broader organizational conditions for racial equity work in participating schools. Due to survey timing, and other challenges, the rate of response varied from 14-51 percent across participating schools. The survey reinforces our understanding that RETs to date largely focused on professional development, and building knowledge and awareness of racial equity issues within their schools. As RETs seek to better understand the root causes of racial inequality and institutionalized racism in schools, the teams are focused on a variety of different strategies, such as restorative justice, improving access to rigorous high quality educational opportunities, culturally responsive teaching practice, and family engagement.

    The summary report (available on the REA website) highlights three key findings from the 2016-17 survey:

    1. Most Racial Equity Teams have prioritized building their schools’ understanding of inequities through professional development and trainings. This finding is aligned to previous research findings about addressing individual understanding and awareness prior to addressing instructional or school practice or policies. This finding raises questions, however, about the extent to which RETs have the organizational support and capacity to translate theory and improved knowledge/awareness into practices and systemic changes that reduce racial inequities and disparities in student outcomes.
    2. Schools with Racial Equity Teams reported relatively positive organizational conditions for racial equity work in their buildings. However, teachers of color perceived, on average, significantly less conducive conditions for racial equity work than their white colleagues. Differences between the perceptions of teachers of color and white teachers align with the research literature. Further case studies (in RET and non-RET schools), should provide more insights into these differences, the role of school leaders, and the nature of the conditions and existing assets to continue to build racial equity work throughout the district.
    3. Educators in schools with RETs consistently rated their culturally-responsive practice as above average, with little variability either within or across schools. This finding was incongruent with the finding that RETs reported limited focus on instructional practice in the classroom. That is, instructional practice does not appear to figure prominently in the work of RETs yet culturally responsive practice was reported as strength of most educators in these schools. This raises questions about how teachers and other instructional staff define and enact culturally responsive instruction in their classrooms.

    The UW research team is currently compiling results from in-depth case studies conducted this school year at four SPS schools with Racial Equity Teams (RETs). Findings from these case studies will shed significantly more light on how RETs work to build educators’ practice to address racial inequities in classrooms and schools, and what RET characteristics, supports, and organizational conditions hinder or foster team efforts to shift policy and practice to foster greater racial equity.

    For information about Policy 0030, visit:

    SPS Board Policy 0030

    SPS Department of Racial Equity Advancement

    ​Information about the SEA Center for Race and Equity