Benchmarks for an Equitable School

The following is a list of what an Equitable School might look like. It is intended to provide an overview of best practices, and not a discussion of what would constitute minimal compliance with Wisconsin's pupil nondiscrimination law.

An Equitable School is one which provides the leadership, environment, curriculum, support and instruction that gives every student an equal educational opportunity, and ensures that every student performs at their highest level. School leadership recognizes that achieving educational equity is a continuous process of assessment, reflection and improvement, and that equity must be integral to every aspect of school life.

The following is a list of specific practices or strategies that an equitable school may use. The list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Characteristics of an equitable school

1. Vision

The school has a clear mission that is committed to ensuring that every student receives an equal educational opportunity and meets high academic standards.

2. Leadership

Leadership's commitment to its vision is infused into every aspect of school life, including the school's set of core values, strategic plan, and school improvement efforts.

  • Teachers are assisted in assessing their needs and the necessary support is provided to ensure high quality instruction.*
  • Diversity clubs are supported financially and accommodations are given, such as release time for field trips.
  • Resources are provided to meet specific students needs such as special education programs or programs for students with limited-English proficiency.
  • Input from students, parents, businesses, staff, and community members is welcomed and encouraged by holding community forums, providing opportunities for school visits, and maintaining open channels of communication.
  • Representation of students on every school board, committee, group, publication and team is encouraged.
  • Expectations for students, teachers and staff are well publicized.*
  • Efforts to achieve the school's mission are continually assessed and improvements are made.

Leadership ensures that its pupil nondiscrimination polices and complaint procedures are comprehensive and effective, and that staff and students are aware of these policies and complaint procedures, and act in accordance with them

  • The pupil nondiscrimination policies apply to all areas of school operations, including all school-sponsored programs and activities.
  • The policies and complaint procedures are explained in non-technical and age-appropriate language.
  • The policies and complaint procedures are published in languages that are accessible to all parents and students.
  • Staff and students understand and are aware of the policies and complaint procedures, and act in accordance with them.
  • The procedures ensure that complaints are impartially and thoroughly investigated, and that confidentiality is maintained to the extent possible.
  • Complaints are effectively and promptly resolved.

3. High Academic Standards

The school provides the curriculum, instruction, classroom management techniques and support necessary so that every student is able to meet the challenge of high academic standards.

Curriculum:

  • All children are given developmentally appropriate and culturally relevant curriculum in languages they can understand.**
  • The history, contributions, values and perspectives of diverse groups are affirmed by teachers and integrated into the school curriculum.
  • Students' first language or dialect is valued by teachers.
  • A multicultural curriculum is woven into the daily life of the school
  • Equity principles and respect for others are infused throughout the curriculum, and not limited to a particular course.
  • The curriculum is developed and presented in a way that is accessible and relevant to a diverse student audience.
  • The curriculum is free of bias and stereotyping.

Instruction:

Teachers have a passion, dedication and enthusiasm for ensuring the educational success of every child.

  • Teachers use a variety of effective instructional techniques that:
    • Provide a mix of both group and individual projects
    • Foster cooperative learning groups***
    • Gives every student an opportunity to help teach
    • Encourage students as questioners, decision-makers and problem solvers.
    • Help build self-esteem
  • Teachers demonstrate high expectations for all students by:
    • Using continually challenging curriculum
    • Selecting and using textbooks and other instructional materials that allow every student to meet high academic standards
    • Using flexible student grouping to guard against tracking.**
  • In planning instruction teachers have knowledge of and consider diversity by:
    • Providing opportunities for student centered learning
    • Providing opportunities for discovery-based learning
    • Providing opportunities for tactile learning.***
    • Recognizing that verbal and nonverbal communication is influenced by culture, group membership and experience. For example, students may use differing eye contact, facial expressions, personal space, and volume when speaking.
    • Addressing diverse communication and learning styles.
  • Teachers encourage respectful and critical viewpoints, multiple perspectives and experiences to be expressed.
  • Teachers assessment of students is aligned with instruction and interwoven within instructional process

Classroom Management:

Classroom management contributes to improved academic achievement by:

  • Using disciplinary methods that are consistent and fair.
  • Continually praising and encouraging every student.***
  • Designing space so that students can engage in cooperative learning
  • Experimenting with background music to block out distractions
  • Organizing study groups
  • Using artwork, posters and other visual displays that reflect and respect diversity. Provide students with an opportunity to participate in the selection, display and rotation of these materials.
  • Providing a variety of informal classroom settings that allow freedom of movement.***
  • Providing opportunities for all students to be leaders at different times.

Support Services:

Provide well-developed guidance, pupil services, and learning support programs that address individual needs and ensure that all students succeed.

  • "School counselors help teachers to design classroom activities that strengthen students' academic, social, personal, and career skills."**
  • Counselors establish strong links to the community, and connect students and families with services not available at school.**
  • Counselors are (collectively) proficient in every language spoken by students and families, or can easily access needed translators.**
  • Counselors have high expectations for all students, provide information, choices and options, and encourage all students to realize their goals.
  • Counselors encourage all students to take courses in the core academic areas.
  • Counselors provided information, choices and options for all students.

4. Standards of the Heart

  • Provides a school that is "safe, attractive and free from prejudice.".**
  • The school environment fosters and promotes respect and caring.**
  • Discipline is firm, fair and consistent.**
  • School mascots, emblems, team names and logos are free from bias or stereotyping and do not perpetuate past discrimination.
  • Pictures and information about diverse groups and cultures are exhibited.
  • Orientation programs address the needs of all students and make every student feel welcome.

5. Family and Community Involvement

  • Partnerships with parents and the community are established.*
  • It is recognized that parents of differing cultures may view their roles differently.
  • Teachers value parent participation and effectively communicate their expectations.
  • The school provides a variety of ways in which parents can participate and contribute.*
  • Transportation, childcare, and other support is provided to enable parent participation.
  • Parents have high expectations for their children.
  • Parents help and encourage their children with homework assignments.
  • Parents provide a suitable space for study.*
  • Parents and community members are asked to serve as role models and mentors, and attention is paid to diversity and nontraditional roles.
  • All parents are involved in the decision-making and learning process.**

6. Professional Development

  • Staff is given the knowledge, skills and tools to help ensure that every child receives an equitable educational opportunity and meets high academic standards.
  • Resources are allocated for professional staff development on equity related issues.
  • Staff has been trained to recognize and prevent pupil harassment.

7. Evidence of Success

  • Staff uses multiple assessment tools to gauge student achievement.
  • Disaggregated data shows that all students are meeting high academic standards.
  • Achievement, demographic, programs, and perception data is disaggregated and used to continually improve instructional methods and curriculum.
  • Assessment and testing instruments are fair and unbiased.
  • All students attend school and graduate.
  • Students and staff report a positive school environment that is free of harassment or bullying.

Credits:

*A Blueprint for Action III, National Conference on Educating Black Children (NCEBC), www.building@newhorizions.org;

**A teaching style that works with Native-American Learners (Pepper and Henry, 1986), found in Creating Culturally Responsive Classrooms, Barbara J. Shade, Cynthia Kelly, and Mary Oberg, p. 102 ((American Psychological Assoc. 1997).

*National Coalition of Advocates for Students (NCAS), Mobilization for Equity, 10 Fundemental Student Rights; www.ncas1.org

***See also, Recreating Schools for All Children, John Morefield, www.newhorizons.org