Equity in Action

Equity in Action

Engage more to learn more:

The map is not the territory.  No plan survives first implementation steps.  Good implementation – like good teaching – requires constant relearning. We learn more when we engage at the implementation level.  When we see and hear first-hand what implementation looks like, we are better able to respond, support and course correct.

Power of Networks:

My passion has long been to serve well the students we have typically served least well.  I was privileged recently to see implementation up close.  A group of district leaders meets regularly to share their goals, strategies and progress.  Quincy School District shared their equity plan.  Harriette Rasmussen facilitated a “consultancy protocol” where we listened, asked questions and gave feedback.  What a great demonstration of learning together from on-the-ground, street-level implementation.

Thank you:

Thank you to Quincy and colleagues, for your dedicated work on racial equity. And for letting me listen in.  Here are some of the lessons learned:

Equity Plans are trending

To be effective, make sure your equity plan:

  1. Starts with data on racial disparities and racial climate
  2. Articulates why race matters. Otherwise, plans get derailed to other issues of equity
  3. Focuses on ways to reduce racial inequities
  4. Builds staff understanding of race
  5. Grows staff capacity in racial literacy

Racial Equity is a Journey 

  • None of us “know” this work. Be open to new learning.
  • Keep the focus on race.  Equity can morph quickly away from race.
  • Creating Readiness is difficult. Pushing hard enough but not too hard.
  • We all have biases.  Own them.  Learn more.  Don’t stay where you are.
  • Engage with good people:  Good facilitators; good protocols; good norms.
  • Small groups tend to provide more manageable discourse.
  • Don’t be surprised by pushback when we bring up race.
    Expect SARA responses:  Shock, Anger, Resistance and Acceptance.
  • Change our conversation from all to each so we don’t leave any out.
  • Create a new mindset.  This is not one more thing.  This is the work.
  • Keep the focus on student success.

Serving our Communities of Color

  • Be aware: serve in community; immerse yourself; embody the values you see
  • Connect with the kids and community that needs us the most
  • Be curious, open, and humble. Admit you don’t know.  Be open to learn
  • Part of cultural competence is cultural humility; not taking offense
  • Keep treating others as they want to be treated – the platinum rule.
  • Make your ego subservient to the culture you are serving
  • Self-awareness is a huge part of EQ (Emotional Intelligence)

Where do we start?

  • Watch from the balcony. Look for the best place to enter the dance floor
  • Work with those who believe in equity and want to change
  • Create space for race. Often both whites and people of color feel they can’t talk about race.
  • Changing beliefs/behaviors requires cognitive dissonance. We can’t always be totally “safe”
  • Meet people where they are. Understand them. Help them grow
  • Seek to understand. Meet everyone where they are.  Listen.  Be responsive
  • Use disaggregated data to focus conversations on reality, not just perceptions
  • Lean heavily into instruction and students. Develop our ability to work with all kids.
    Learn to improve outcomes for our neediest students

Quincy’s Promise: All Students Graduate from HS prepared …

Quincy has been on this journey for a number of years.  We listened to their story and engaged in dialogue. Here are a few of our lessons learned:

  1. Grow a leadership team

    Grow capacity, experience, and commitment. John has many years in Seattle working with Glenn Singleton. Nikolas is working on an equity dissertation. Marcus brings urgency and perspective as a HS principal of color.

  2. Keep talking about WHY.

    Sponsor the work.  Seek board sponsorship.    Keep learning … from books and pod casts.  Be curious, vulnerable.  Build a coalition and a pathway.  Keep the work visible.  Keep engaging the culture.

  3. Learning Stance:

    Learn to be an anti-racist leader.  Work to end the history of oppression and racism.  Lean into this work in a genuine and authentic way to change futures.

  4. Create a Coalition of the Willing:

    Quincy’s initial coalition focused on equity. It took some time to focus more intentionally on race.  They have a broad coalition of 35 members.  Representation includes: board, superintendent, principals, teachers, & community.  They are creating common terminology, common ground, common commitment.

  5. Be strategic.

    Use consultants, data, and professional development to grow readiness.  Continue to bring the topic back to race.  Keep moving toward a racial equity policy.  Review policy options.  Quincy applied a racial equity lens to their board review of student discipline and to attendance boundary revisions.  If we want to dismantle inequity we have to be strategic.  Random acts of equity may leave us further behind. 

  6. Keep the focus on race.

    Otherwise you get off track.  SEL, Trauma, F&R, SpEd, ELL, all lead back to race.

  7. Grow readiness:

    Recognize context.  Our community is conservative.  Recognize the fears.  Partner with the board. Help people process (head, heart, hands).  Get good facilitation.  Use norms.  Provide PD.  Work on common terminology.  This is iterative work. Keep the conversation going without turning people off.

  8. Use Data:

    Our Equity Audit found “predictable patterns of inequity.” Our ‘Youth Truth’ survey was disaggregated and discussed with students.  Data analysis has been completed.  Root cause analysis is a next step.

Moving Forward – Questions to ponder:

  • What will it look like in three years?
  • How will you expand working group district-wide?
  • What does failure look like?
  • How will you move from planning to action?
  • Can you move the conversation forward faster?
  • Keep asking:  Whose story are we missing?

Learning by Doing.

Kudos to Kevin Chase and the Washington Superintendent’s Network for their genuine and authentic work.  Kudos to Harriette Rasmussen for creating a place for in depth conversations about issues that matter most.  Kudos to John Boyd for leading Quincy on this journey … and sharing the work with colleagues.  And John is already using the feedback to get better!

This is the work of the future.  We will only learn how to close gaps by listening and learning from each other and from doing the work.


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Larry Nyland speaking

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

To talk about growing extraordinary "high capacity" leadership for your team …
Contact: Larry@Larrynyland.com | 425-418-4398 | LarryNyland.com