Equity in education has always played the most crucial role in leading a successful school. This year, school administrators have dealt with the significant challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing social unrest happening across our nation. As advocates for all students, we have to guarantee a world-leading education by eliminating the root causes of inequities within our school systems.
The National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) has launched a National Task Force on Race and Equity to address these inequities. The Task Force consists of elementary school principals from across the U.S.
The Task Force has three guiding priorities:
- Strengthening Principals as Leaders of Equity
- School Assessment and Action Planning
- Equity-Aligned Policy and Advocacy
Now more than ever, principals have to be the equity leaders and make anti-bias an explicit priority within their school walls through personal reflection on race, and their own implicit biases, and engaging in courageous conversations. Often, educators state they have no biases. As administrators, not recognizing biases can lead to bad decisions at work, in life, and in relationships (ABA, 2020). We have to have open communication in our school communities to serve all races, genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and other groups.
The other day, I talked to one of my kindergarten teachers about bias and our roles within the school. We talked about how John Hopkins University’s research showed that having at least one Black teacher in elementary school cuts the high school dropout rates of very low-income Black boys by 39 percent, and raises college aspirations among poor students of both sexes by 19 percent. My teacher shared his experience as a male teacher of color teaching kindergarten. He stated that he went to a nearby school as a child and was excited when he gained his teaching certificate. When he went to apply for a teaching position, he was notified the school community would probably not be open to him teaching in a kindergarten classroom. This teacher is exceptional and is our current Teacher of the Year. Why would an educator not hire this outstanding candidate? Was it his race? His gender? All leaders must recognize that bias is influenced when organizational climate permits it (e.g., van Ryn et al., 2015; Ziegert & Hanges, 2005).
The NAESP Task Force is working with Project Implicit to mitigate unwanted bias within our nation’s schools through our school leaders. Our team started with examining our own individual biases by taking the Implicit Association Test (IAT) provided by Harvard University.
We can bring much-needed equity conversations to the forefront through school assessment and action planning. Our campus teams and leaders must:
- Review District Level Data (achievement data, staff hiring, retention practices, discipline policies and digital access)
- View Curriculum with an Equity Eye (instruction, assignment standards, and special programs)
- Incorporate School Comprehensive Equity Training
Currently, the NAESP team is also collaborating with MAEC, Inc for a Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium Equity Audit Pilot. MAEC, Inc developed its Equity Audit to offer districts, schools, and teachers a way to establish a more concrete understanding of what it means to practice equity and reflect on whether current school policies, procedures and practices are equitable. Schools around the nation are joining in this pilot to utilize this research-based tool. This tool provides a laser-focused view of equity and highlights systematic barriers to equity that might exist.
School administration is not an easy task, but it is the most rewarding. We have so many school administrators willing to step out of their comfort zones to look within our school communities and gain insight into school experiences and equity. I am beyond excited to represent Zone 8 (Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Arizona, and Missouri) on this fierce force. Read my article “Leading Change to Overcome Implicit Bias in Schools” and stay tuned for more great things from the NAESP National Task Force on Race and Equity here.
Principal Annette Sanchez has served the Beeville ISD community for 24 years. Through the years, she has worked in many roles including teacher, curriculum consultant, assistant principal, interim superintendent and principal. Sanchez is a past TEPSA state president and currently serves on the NAESP National Task Force on Race and Equity.