For the first time in U.S. history, a majority of K–12 public school students are students of color. Recent uprisings over police violence against Black people have brought light to a centuries-long issue of race inequality in the U.S. Schools are a key part of the solution, making it imperative that they not only welcome diversity in the classroom but also teach students how to navigate an increasingly racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse society.
Principals have a major role in leading equity in their schools. The process involves introspective
thinking, conversations with staff, and teaching children an accurate depiction of the history of race relations in the U.S. It might seem complicated to get the conversation started, but with these tips, leaders can help bring about real change in their schools.
- Conduct individual and building-wide assessments. Encourage staff to engage in “What Am I?” discussions, where they write down identity descriptors to help identify their cultural, philosophical and social identities. This exercise helps staff understand the social contexts that guide their peers’ belief systems.
- Create a positive climate and culture. Intentionally promote inclusivity and positive relations among students, among teachers and staff, and between students and adults on site.
- Develop student interest surveys and lead teachers to learn about their students’ interests. Incorporate staff meeting time for teachers to report on what motivates students to learn; how a relationship has been built with each student; and what they learned about students’ interests. Ensure teachers identify and have a specialized focus on students who are marginalized or are at risk.
- Provide strong professional development on cultural competence, equity and social justice. This type of professional learning can help teachers and staff improve classroom instruction and provide equitable school management strategies that will improve achievement for all students. Create student diversity leadership training and diversity workshops for administrative teams and student leaders which include teaching tolerance. Student leaders can train peers on subjects related to diversity and tolerance guided by administrators and counselors.
- Recruit qualified teachers who are enthusiastic about change. Promote buy-in. School reform cannot work unless the entire staff is on board.
- Provide chats, newsletters or blogs about diversity. Written and led by the principal and school leadership team, this communication should promote the diverse school culture, showcase how the school values diversity, and strive to meet the needs of each and all students.
- Collaborate with families and community members. Establish clear methods and practices for collaborating with families and community members regularly, and act ethically with integrity and fairness when working with families and community members.
Learn more about leadership competencies and strategies in NAESP’s The Principal’s Guide to Building Culturally Responsive Schools.
Source: Dateline NAESP. (2020, July). National Association of Elementary School Principals.
TEPSA News, November/December 2020, Vol 77, No 6
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