D99: Components of Equity & Inclusion

These descriptors come from the Deep Equity Institute materials which have been a part of the D99 Equity Team training.

Component One: Tone and Trust

We want our participants to feel that the work is real, that it is not coming from a place of shame and blame, and that they can bring their truth to the conversations, rather than their cynicism or political correctness.  We want the work to feel fresh, interesting, and both personally and professionally challenging.  We want to create an environment that is safe enough for folks to risk moving past their edges.  We want them to be intrigued without being overly threatened.  Our goal is for participants to be able to say what I often hear in my workshops: “I look forward to these sessions because we get to talk honestly with each other about what’s really happening in our schools.” - Gary Howard, Deep Equity Institute

Component Two: Personal Culture and Personal Journey

This component is intended to recognize and honor the personal racial and cultural narratives of each member of your staff.  Everybody has multiple and complex stories and experiences related to the many dimensions of difference.  It is not only our students who bring diversity to our schools; every adult in the building also has a unique journey that deserves to be recognized and valued.

This [component] of the work is particularly important for white folks, who often do not see themselves as racial or cultural beings.  Since the overwhelming majority of teachers in American public schools are white, it is essential that white folks be engaged in exploring their own experiences of race and other differences, even if that story, like mine, involves periods of ignorance, bias, or dis-consciousness.  One of the comments I hear most frequently from white educators who have been involved in this process: “This is the first time as a white person that my own story has been recognized, and that I haven’t felt blamed.”

For people of color and members of other marginalized groups, this phase of the work is also particularly significant.  [Within this work] there is no pressure for people of color to share things they prefer to keep private.  However, if we can establish appropriate levels of trust and safety, people will choose to share powerful stories about their own experiences of prejudice and discrimination, stories that many of their colleagues have never heard.

As the adults in your school grow in their capacity to share and hear each other’s stories, they will be more able to attune their personal and professional attention to the many narratives that your student bring with them into the school experience.  The more you and your [staff] are attuned in this way, the greater will be your capacity to respond effectively to your students’ needs.  This is the power of Cultural Competence and Culturally Responsive Teaching; it is all about our capacity as adults to be real in the presence of our students.- Gary Howard, Deep Equity Institute

Component Three: Social Dominance to Social Justice

The goal of our overall work is to create schools where more of our students, across more of their differences, are achieving at a higher level and engaging at a deeper level, without giving up who they are. In other words, our purpose is to eliminate educational inequities based on race, economics, and other dimensions of difference, without requiring that our students assimilate to a dominant cultural identity. In [this component] of the work, we go deeply into those historical and contemporary dynamics that have created and sustained systems of oppression, marginalization, and inequity for far too many of our students and their families.  We look at the roots of the so-called “achievement gap,” which would be more accurately described as an opportunity gap, a social justice gap, or a privilege gap.

The assumption underlying this part of the work is that we cannot eliminate inequities without first understanding the causes of those inequities. And we cannot understand the causes without talking about issues of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, language diversity, and special needs, as well as racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism.  It is not sufficient to provide teachers and leaders with a solid foundation of instructional strategies, powerful curriculum, and a Common Core focus on outcomes. Even with these interventions in place, systemic inequities will persist unless they are addressed consciously and directly.

The strategies and activities in [Component] Three are designed to engage [staff] in authentic conversations about issues of difference and discrimination, privilege and power, and social dominance and social justice that function at the structural and societal levels. The work is not only theoretical but moves directly to the ways these realities are functioning on a daily basis within the culture of your school, within classroom practices, and within individual belief systems. There is no comfortable way to have these conversations. In fact, if we are overly comfortable in the process, we’re probably not having the necessary conversations. Even though the real work requires some degree of unease, the discussions here are intentionally structured to avoid unnecessary levels of shame, blame, finger pointing, and guilt. - Gary Howard, Deep Equity Institute

Component Four: School Applications

This is where the work moves directly into professional practice, how we bring cultural competence and culturally responsive teaching into the classroom and the culture of the school.  School [staff] are understandably tempted to begin with this phase of the work, going directly into [school applications] and staying there, not taking the time to engage in [Components] One through Three. My experience (Gary Howard) working in hundreds of schools, with thousands of educators, has taught me not to give in to this temptation. [Educators] need a reason to reflect on their practice and a solid motivational foundation from which to consider changing their strategies and interactions with students. [Components] One through Three are designed to build the passion for change, while [Component] Four provides the conceptual framework and the strategies for that change.

At the center of the Component Four content and process are the Seven Principles for Culturally Responsive Teaching, a set of professional guidelines and behaviors that [educators] can connect to the many research-based practices already in place. This integrative structure needs to account for the racial, cultural, socioeconomic, linguistic, and other differences your students bring to [school]. The Seven Principles for Culturally Responsive Teaching provide that structure.  

Most of the schools I have worked with around the country, particularly those with large populations of racially and economically marginalized students, are suffering from a particular disease brought on by school reform efforts. This disease I call MIS: multiple initiatives syndrome. Although each of the many interventions can provide valuable skills, teachers often experience these approaches as “one more thing” added to an already overwhelming set of mandated expectations. Refreshingly, I have not found this to be true for the Seven Principles of Culturally Responsive Teaching. The Principles serve as the connective tissue that allows [educators] to make sense of their work and bring together all other [school] initiatives. - Gary Howard, Deep Equity Institute

Component Five: Systemic Change

This component provides tools and strategies for reinforcing the growth of your schools at the organizational level. You are given a three-stage model for understanding and assessing the movement of your school culture toward greater inclusion, equity, and excellence, as well as a process for tracking your victories and struggles along the way. There are planning guides to support you and your leadership team in mapping out the multiyear implementation of this professional [learning] process. And there are ideas for integrating the Cultural Competence and Culturally Responsive Teaching work with other instructional and school improvement initiatives you may already have in place. In addition, [Component] Five offers strategies for engaging student voices as an integral part of your school improvement efforts. Finally, you are given a model research and evaluation design that demonstrates how this professional development process leads to positive student outcomes related to school engagement, academic achievement, and reduction of discipline referrals. - Gary Howard, Deep Equity Institute