By LaToya Patterson
The ramifications and impact of the pandemic are interwoven into the fabric of our educational tapestry. The various threads are composed of different colors and materials and represent all that the present time requires of educators. Between House Bill 4545, the daunting challenges of acceleration, COVID-19 protocols, social-emotional learning, and a nationwide teacher shortage, it’s easy to get lost in how to prioritize it all. Ultimately, as leaders, we want to do what’s best for our scholars.
Each child is a beautiful work of art, a completed tapestry, if you will. A tapestry is created by weaving together the horizontal threads, or wefts, over the vertical threads, known as the warp. When done correctly, the warp, or vertical threads, are hidden from view. Even though they are hidden, they are critical components of the finished product—they are essential. In much the same way, ensuring equity across your campus is essential to success. Equity is the backbone that serves as the foundation each student needs to achieve.
Here are eight things to think about as you prioritize equity on your campus:
1. Stop normalizing failure.
When we say things like, “but they’re so low,” “they’re so far behind,” or “they don’t have any parental support,” what we’re really saying is “I don’t believe you’re ready for this”—essentially, “I don’t believe in you.” And yes, the above statements may be true, however, they are not the end all be all determiner in student success. Low-income students and students of color are 25% less likely to receive grade-level assignments, and this amounts to huge gaps in achievement for our various student populations. If we believe all kids can learn, then we must prioritize all our students having access to a rigorous and robust curriculum taught on grade level.
2. Embrace differences and celebrate culture.
Our differences are what make us unique. When we acknowledge those differences and validate our students, their experiences, and their gifts, we help further our mission of educating the whole child.
3. Remember, data is crucial.
We can’t get where we’re going, if we don’t know where we are. As leaders, we must be intentional about tracking student data by our various subpopulations. This will shine light on areas of concern and those needing additional attention.
4. Build bridges to foster relationships.
Most educators understand students don’t care how much we know, until they know how much we care. The same is true for our families. We must be willing to go and build bridges with our families and the communities we serve. We can ask for them to come to us, but in reality, we need to go to them. We must build the bridge and walk over to the other side to grab their hands and let them know how much we care.
5. Replace punitive consequences with restorative practices.
Despite making up only 13% of the Texas public school student population, Black students accounted for 26% of all in-school suspensions, and 32% of out-of-school suspensions during the 2018-2019 school year. Comparatively, White students represented 27% of enrollment, but only 22% of in-school suspensions, and 14% of out-of-school suspensions. There is no research to support that exclusionary practices make schools safer, yet research has shown that students of color are more likely to receive exclusionary discipline measures, even though their incidence of misbehavior is similar to their White peers. Restorative practices have the potential to strengthen a school’s culture and build trust between students and staff.
6. Ensure books, bulletin boards and displays reflect the diversity of the classroom.
When we think about the humanities and social sciences courses, the teaching material can often be limited to Western, white, male, upper or middle-class narratives. It’s important that our students see themselves in the books we read as well as in our displays and bulletin boards. Try to incorporate a diverse range of authors into your classroom libraries and into your lessons.
7. Give students voice.
Students have the greatest stake in their education but are often the voices least engaged in the conversations surrounding it. Student voice can be directly linked to student engagement, which in turn speaks to student achievement. Be sure to incorporate student voice into your decision-making process, including voices from historically marginalized groups.
8. Welcome other languages into the classroom.
Taking the time to learn new words in the native languages of your students helps break down barriers. As Texas focuses on “translanguaging,” as a means of building language, reading, and comprehension skills among our emergent learners, it’s important for us and our students to embrace the fluidity of spoken language.
LaToya Patterson is an Elementary Principal Resident in Spring ISD. She currently serves as the 2021-2022 TEPSA Region 4 President.
TEPSA Leader, Winter 2022, Vol 35, No 1
Copyright © 2022 by the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association. No part of articles in TEPSA publications or on the website may be reproduced in any medium without the permission of the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association.