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February 1, 2022

Reader's Guide / Persevering in Equity Work

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There's no way around it: equity work is hard and complex. It challenges long-held assumptions and surfaces unconscious biases, engages us in uncomfortable conversations with colleagues and community members, and (as you'll read in this issue) puts jobs on the line. Many school districts are now facing strong resistance to equity initiatives that, as Mark Anthony Gooden and his coauthors argue, threaten to stifle dialogue and change.
Over the past year, "somehow creating a space for children to feel welcomed, seen, and loved [has become] politicized," says Brittany Hogan, a former district administrator in St. Louis.
As the authors in this issue of Educational Leadership acknowledge, the difficulties of starting and sustaining equity work are real—both at the school and district level. Yet leaders cannot let the noise and "orchestrated distractions" outside their buildings dictate what happens inside of them. The gaps in opportunities, access, and belonging that many students experience due to systemic inequities have only become more evident during the pandemic.

Given this reality, incremental steps, scattershot initiatives, and slow and steady conversations may only mask the status quo. One major lesson we can draw on from this issue is the need to be strategic and bold, to build a shared vision among staff, and to analyze—and act on—data with an equity lens. This may demand "equity leaps rather than baby steps."

Our Commitment to DEI

As an antibias and antiracist organization, ASCD is committed to supporting our educational partners in this work. We believe that every student deserves a fair and equitable chance to thrive—and that every educator should have the professional support they need to sustain this work. That's why ASCD's five-year strategic vision includes an organizational centering around equity and social justice.
This centering not only spans the work we do in schools and districts around the country, but also internally among our staff. Through the development of an organizational equity framework, a DEI committee and DEI-focused working groups, and ongoing employee training, we are doing our homework—iterating and learning with humility.
Moving forward, we've found, requires a commitment to deeper organizational understanding. As Dwayne Chism writes in this issue, one key to doing equity work at an institutional level is to ensure strategic coherence, "which brings a deeper understanding of equity and the 'why' behind equity efforts." That is a course we aim to follow.

A Moral Imperative

Few can contest that schools and educational organizations are at a crossroads: They can either coalesce around equity work that won't be "cute, easy, or nice" or fold to those who have louder voices or to more easily accomplished, less transformational priorities.
We owe it to our students to do the "right thing," asserts author and educator Liz Kleinrock. In her interview, Kleinrock says there's a propensity to center the comfort of those least invested in equitable outcomes. "At this point, I don't believe in waiting for everyone to get on board," says Kleinrock. "This work is too important."
We can't always aspire to "meet people where they are," echo Paul Gorski, Marceline DuBose, and Katy Swalwell. "Equity means eradicating harm now; it means actively cultivating justice." That's what students demand and deserve, they say, "not the crumbs of half-hearted inclusiveness, but the whole equity cake."
At the same time, Gorski, DuBose, and Swalwell caution, "We're not advocating that all equity-minded leaders should leap their way out of jobs. The question for educational leaders is, Within my context, given my spheres of influence, how far out of these baby steps can I stretch? The commitment, then, is to stretch at least that far."
What steps—or rather leaps—are you willing to take in your commitment to equity work?

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