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Equity and Education: It Begins From Within

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction prioritizes educational equity in ensuring every student receives a high-quality education. During this difficult time as our students and families are forced to grapple with continued occurrences of racial violence, it is important to directly address education and societal inequities.

While the agency provides several publicly-facing statements and resources, including a definition of educational equity, the Embracing Equity E-course, and the Promoting Excellence for All strategies, there is one resource we would like to elevate during this time of unrest to better serve all students and communities.

Developed by Wisconsin Response to Intervention (RtI )Center, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and the Disproportionality Technical Assistance Network, The Model to Inform Culturally Responsive Practice has been an important anchor to “describe the beliefs, knowledge, and practices Wisconsin educators, schools, and districts need to reach and teach diverse students within their culturally responsive multi‐level systems of support” (2017).

The basic components of the model to inform are:

  1. Will: Desire to lead

  2. Fill: Gain cultural knowledge

  3. Skill: Apply knowledge

The first two components outline the necessary individual commitment and reflection in order to work toward the application of knowledge to create change. This work is ongoing and often recursive, allowing for continued opportunities to become self-aware and examine the school systems that impact students and families in order to apply the skills learned to work toward more equitable outcomes.

Internally, the DPI has spent several years establishing opportunities for that individual work. From all-staff meetings focused on equity to an equity library focused on building knowledge, the internal work being done could be replicated in school districts and individual schools as they work on their culturally responsive journey.

The DPI holds a Perspectives on Equity series for staff, which was created to support open dialogue about racial, cultural, and physically-based inequities impacting our work at DPI, the field of education, and beyond. The series uses guest speakers, videos, and books to facilitate discussions and suggest further study.

The DPI equity library is housed in a common area in the building with a simple checkout process. Some of the titles coincide with the Perspectives on Equity series, while others are available to build knowledge and capacity. Some of the book titles are:

  • Black-White Achievement Gap: Why Closing it is the Greatest Civil Rights Issue of our Time, by Rod Paige and Elaine Witty

  • Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina, by Raquel Cepeda

  • Courageous Conversations About Race: A Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools, by Glenn Singleton

  • Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students, by Zaretta Hammond

  • Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond

  • Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson

  • Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask, by Anton Treuer

  • The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, by Kao Kalia Yang

  • The Wrong Kind of Muslim: An Untold Story of Persecution & Perseverance, by Qasim Rashid

  • Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson

There are many other ways to work for more equitable outcomes for every student. While COVID-19 has disrupted face-to-face learning options, the Wisconsin RtI Center, the Wisconsin PBIS Network, and the Disproportionality Technical Assistance Network continue to offer resources and learning opportunities to make a direct impact on equity in schools.