The Center is presenting its second annual Equity Institute in a couple of weeks, so that has been on my mind 24/7. I’m co-facilitating the session on Strategy for Equity, and it’s my job to get across two major points:
That strategies that don’t improve the instructional core (see attached chapter from Instructional Rounds if you’re not familiar with that terminology) won’t improve achievement. For example, it may be totally the right thing to address climate or attendance; but once you’ve improved climate and attendance, you won’t actually improve achievement unless you improve the instructional core;
That there is no such thing as an equity-neutral strategy. In other words, the ability of a strategy to close achievement gaps has a lot to do with the way it is implemented not just in every classroom, but within each classroom. For example, let’s say your school is focused on improving the quality of teacher feedback. It’s not enough to know that all teachers are working on giving more feedback. You also have to find out who’s benefiting from that feedback. Is it the kids who are already pretty confident who seek out more feedback and therefore receive more feedback? Or does the teacher make sure that all kids are receiving task-oriented feedback that helps them move towards their learning goals? Does the teacher expect kids to respond to feedback in certain ways, and give less feedback to kids perceived as defensive or less motivated? Or does the teacher understand that how kids respond to feedback can vary greatly depending on factors that the teacher doesn’t even know about, and makes sure that all kids are receiving task-oriented feedback that helps them move towards their learning goals? We know that there is considerable variation in implementation of any innovation, and that this variation happens at different scales, and the kids on the losing end of the variation are the kids who always lose…
If you’re not planning for equity, you can expect inequity.
I would, of course, be very happy to talk more about these ideas and the implications for instructional leadership. And I am very grateful to those of you who’ve responded to previous coaching letters with feedback or questions—keep it coming.