How Scrums Can Increase Equity

Equity – How “scrums” can move equity work forward

Virtually every district has taken to heart the urgency and importance of addressing equity.

One and Done

Too often, however, efforts are too small to make a difference.  You engage a speaker, find a way to gather the staff, and lead with a powerful motivating address.  These events serve an important purpose.  They demonstrate the heart and passion we have for change and for better meeting student needs.  But then the day, the event, the speaker are over and past.  What next?

Ongoing PD

We addressed this issue in many ways in Seattle.  Racial Equity Teams were formed in 10 schools, then 20, then 30 … adding ten more schools each year.  They met five times per year, and we learned to improve each year.


We created a partnership team with teachers and principals to plan annual professional development days, and we learned each year to get better.  We created our own equity institute featuring our own teachers and school leadership staff and again got better each year.  Each however was somewhat limited in reach and time.


Then came the “scrum.” Scrums are a speed dating variation of improvement science.  With a scrum you aim for a ‘minimum viable product’ in just a few weeks.  The focus is on moving quickly from talk to action.  In Seattle we did so around equity PD.

Digital PD

Our aim was to create a “Digital Toolkit” for Equity.  Something that could be used “anytime, anywhere, any device.”

Starting Small

A dozen people came together to create a product.  They borrowed heavily from the previous PD work and pulled digital footage from many sources.  They tested it back in their schools with 32 colleagues – pilot users.

Expanding Participants

In Phase 1 & 2 it was rolled out to 91 additional users and then offered to 168 equity institute participants.  At each stage, we asked for feedback.

Word Spread

By then, momentum was building. School secretaries asked if they could use it – another 100 people trying it out.  Then we took it to those who had been on one of our Race and Equity Teams … another 400 people. At each stage we listened and made improvements.

Going Viral

Then great planning met great opportunity.  We had to make up part of a lost school day … and someone suggested that we use this on-line, virtual tool to let 3500 teachers make up the day.  Because of the pilot, our teacher partnership, and the constant feedback, it worked!  And we got lots of positive reviews … because we had a product that had been improved again and again.

More Content

Since then another half dozen modules have been added.  Now, every Racial Equity Team, every building principal, every Building Leadership Team, has at their finger-tips materials that can be reviewed and reinforced and applied.  It lays the foundation for common language, common definition and common expectations to support building awareness for the district’s values around racial equity.  Teachers that need instant help – what to do tomorrow – have 24 hour on-line access from any device.

Expanded Reach

And the partnership continues to grow.  The union equity work now partners even more closely with the district Racial Equity Teams.  Together they are developing manuals for the RET teams to use in developing on-the-ground, grass roots plans for each building which reflect and move toward the district goals.

Sharing is the new super-power

Hattie defines efficacy as the highest effect size of any intervention.  Top down doesn’t work.  Bottom up doesn’t work.  Shared expectations and shared planning are the sweet spots where we can truly work together toward the common goal of eliminating bias and creating greater learning opportunities to close gaps.

Consider Scrums to Expand your Equity Work

Scrums are one additional partnership tool to that helps deliver the final mile from theory to practice.  And it conveys urgency, confidence and competence by helping to deliver the 10,000 hours needed to develop professional expertise … in this case around the urgency and importance of equity.

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Larry Nyland speaking

Larry Nyland – Leadership Coach and Consultant.
Seattle Schools superintendent 2014-2018

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