Magazine article The Learning Professional

Equity Drives Learning Forward's Vision

Magazine article The Learning Professional

Equity Drives Learning Forward's Vision

Article excerpt

At Learning Forward, we fundamentally believe every child deserves access to excellent teaching and learning every day, regardless of his or her ZIP code or family income. Socioeconomic conditions, race, gender, ethnic background, and other factors should not be predictors for educational attainment.

We believe school systems and other learning environments have to be relentless in addressing the issue of expanding learning opportunities for each and every student while building on the strengths all children bring to the classroom.

These beliefs are fundamental to our approaches to achieving equity. They underlie the decision the board of trustees made earlier this year to explicitly include equity in Learning Forward's vision statement: Equity and excellence in teaching and learning.

We recognize that districts and schools have many tools to address their equity challenges, and we believe effective professional learning can play a crucial role. How a district defines equity will determine the role professional learning can play in helping the system achieve its goals.

For example, if a district has a goal focused on closing achievement gaps for populations that haven't performed as well as others, the professional learning strategy might include a focus on helping teachers try different approaches, differentiate to meet learning needs, and find ways to build on the strengths of all students.

Another equity goal for a district could be increasing the diversity of its teaching force to more closely align to its student demographics. In this case, the professional learning strategy could include supporting principals and central office staff in strategies to attract, seek out, and support teacher candidates. Such a strategy would include developing an induction process that values culture, embraces diversity in the teaching force, and builds the efficacy of new teachers.

A district's equity strategies connect directly to the attitudes and beliefs of its workforce. The professional learning strategy can help central office and building staff engage in deep exploration of their values, beliefs, and assumptions about children who have life experiences different from their own.

This professional learning approach is not something a district or school accomplishes in a two-hour sit-and-get session or a professional development day for all staff at the beginning of the year. Instead, it requires an ongoing commitment to understanding the core issues and creating ways of working that allow educators to return to the topic, practice strategies, receive feedback, and assess their new practices and behaviors.

This professional learning strategy also requires a firm commitment from district leaders to stay engaged until new behaviors are sustained and equity goals are met. …

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