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This paper presents a tool that captures research-informed, high leverage aspects of schooling that leaders must address in order to create systems that build on the strengths and respond to the needs of students of color. The tool offers a theoretical framework for district and school leaders and staff to understand the ecosystem of policies and practices they design and enact. It also includes a set of measurable indicators to track progress toward greater racial equity and enable data-informed decision-making.
The tool presents a new research-based theoretical framework. It is based on the supposition that achieving racial equity means student success is not predetermined by student race. ‘Student success’ occurs when students demonstrate developmentally-appropriate mastery of academic knowledge and skills; preparation for work, life, and civic participation; and the social-emotional skills that undergird healthy self-image and relationships with others and the broader world. It also posits that districts set direction and take action in influencing these levers in an ongoing cycle of improvement in partnership with school community members.
The tool presented in this paper is based on a systematic review of extant literature and instruments on educational equity (e.g. Annenberg, 2002; Authors, 2017; Del Razo et al., 2014; Najaoka et al., 2015; National Commission on Teaching an America’s Future, 2016; Scheerens, 2011). We used findings from these studies and instruments to develop a draft framework to understand and measure systems-level racial equity. In a second phase, researchers consulted with cabinet-level district leaders in a workshop session on using the tool to understand racial equity in their systems. Feedback from this session informed utilization-focused adaptations to enhance the practicality and accessibility of the tool.
The research resulted in a user-friendly tool, featuring six key levers that district leadership can pull to advance racial equity. Specifically, school district leaders must have:
• a clear vision for racial equity;
• data systems that drive progress toward racial equity;
• resources that are equitably distributed;
• deeper learning instructional practices;
• meaningful partnerships with families and the community;
• and safe, healthy and inclusive school environments.
Additionally, the tool enumerates indicators for each lever. We frame essential questions that break down each lever into its component parts, and list qualitative and quantitative measures that facilitate targeted exploration of district data for each question.
This paper is a significant contribution to scholarship because it brings together what is known about district racial equity in a uniquely comprehensive and practical tool. The tool helps conceptualize systems-level equity work for practitioners and researchers alike, and provides a resource for districts to self-evaluate, set goals, and track progress over time. Additionally, it provides a way for external users to systematically collect data to inform further research on racial equity outcomes. Ready for dissemination and use, this tool will help to inform research, practice, and policy in research-based, equity-oriented ways.