button-download-workshop-filesStrand: Strategies for Equitable Learning Environments
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Session I: 9:15 – 10:30 AM


This interactive workshop is designed to build teacher, administrator, and/or district leader capacity to integrate culturally responsive practices into their toolkits. Participants will explore scaffolded information to promote equitable practice and decision-making by (1) establishing culturally responsive norms, (2) incorporating essential elements of cultural proficiency in practice, and (3) utilizing collaborative inquiry as an equitable approach to data analysis and action-planning.


Shaefer_Susan_2017Susan Shaffer

Executive Director, President
Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium – Center for Education Equity

Biography: Susan has been a nationally recognized expert for more than four decades. Her transformational work in public schools has centered on the development of comprehensive technical assistance, training on educational equity, and multicultural gender-related issues. Ms. Shaffer has published extensively on gender equity, family engagement, civil rights, multicultural education, and disability. Ms. Shaffer serves on several boards, including the National Association of Family, School and Community Engagement (co-founder), School of Education, Bowie State University, MD, the MD Women’s Heritage Center, and Harmony through Education. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her service and leadership. She holds a B.A. in History and M.A. in education from the University of California, Berkeley.

Harris_Pam_2017Pamela Harris

Senior Lead Consultant
Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium-Center for Education Equity

Biography: Ms. Harris is a 43 year veteran in service to diverse stakeholders in school district communities, schools and classrooms. Most recently, since 2011, Ms. Harris has served as Senior Educational Equity Specialist, Senior Advisor, Educational Equity and now Senior Lead Consultant for Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium (MAEC) – Center for Education Equity (CEE) (formerly Mid- Atlantic Equity Center (MAC)). In her professional role, she provides leadership in the delivery of capacity building and technical assistance to Region I school districts in the New England, Mid-Atlantic States. Her range of applied knowledge, expertise and experience focuses on educational equity priorities related to civil rights, social justice , public school education and issues related to children, youth and families impacted by gender, national origin race and religion.


Disaggregated data analysis and needs assessments conducted by Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) confirms that there are clear, recurring patterns of low-income and minority students underachieving in regions throughout the United States. Given such recurring patterns, repeating the policies and practices of the past is a sure path to perpetuating ineffective practices that underserve underrepresented learners and lead to failure. To achieve educational equity, progressive and culturally sustaining models of school and classroom organization and culture are required.

To best address the complexities of creating genuine and sustainable equitable classrooms and schools, the presenters will begin with a very basic assumption. Cultural and socioeconomic differences are best seen as assets–not liabilities–to learning. Equal educational opportunity builds on the incorporation of differences and an appreciation that unilateral school cultures are by definition discriminatory. In addition, although certain policies might well lead to a greater socioeconomic integration of schools, their impact will be minimal unless certain key factors are explicitly addressed. These key factors include (1) the intersectionality of the demographic and cultural characteristics of the students, (2) structural racism, (3) concentrated poverty, (4) segregation within school, and (5) the need for cultural competency and capacity building. The critical importance of each of these factors is incorporated into the presentation.

Needs assessments demonstrate that students are not demographically or culturally one-dimensional. For example, the experiences of an African American girl and an African American boy in the same school will, in all likelihood, not be identical. A student from a conservative Christian family may have values that are at times at odds with other students and teachers. The interactions of race, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, ethnicity, and language are complex. Viable strategies require intentional planning that guides policy makers and educators to engage in practices that go beyond good intentions or “”make-shift”” remedies.

Exclusory practices between and within schools are not random; they are structured along class and, particularly, along race and ethnic lines. African American students, in particular, are treated differently from other students. For example, their teachers tend to be younger, less experienced, and less qualified. These teachers also tend to leave schools with a majority of African American students for jobs in other schools. African American students are more likely to receive harsh punishments for relatively small infractions of school policy, have access to few advanced courses, attend schools with few educational resources, have less access to plentiful and healthful food than students in middle class schools, and are exposed to unsafe environments on a regular basis (Cookson 2013). Factors such as these suggest that structural racism is not a result of misguided school policies, but the cause of those policies that work against equitable schools.
Today, over half of the students who attend public schools are poor by government measures. Students who live in neighborhoods where everyone is poor attend schools that, with some exceptions, vastly underperform. The effects of living in an isolated, poor community are profound for students and families alike. We must analyze the consequences of concentrated poverty on readiness to learn and to work closely with schools to develop classroom cultures that meet the needs of all children and low-income students from diverse cultural, linguistic, and racial backgrounds.
Tracking by any other name is still tracking (Oakes 1985). We know the history of tracking and “ability” grouping has resulted in schools where low-income and minority students are offered an inadequate education with less demanding teachers and curricula, chances to develop critical thinking skills, exposure to college and career information, and opportunities to participate fully in the life of the school. If schools are to be equitable tracking will have to be eliminated in favor of other integrative, culturally sustaining pedagogical strategies. This requires a growth mindset and an astute grasp of the complexities of the classroom.

Throughout the workshop, facilitators will model cultural competence while interacting with participants in an effort to demonstrate the values associated with inclusion and integration through daily practices and continuous opportunities to learn and reflect. Teachers and school leaders who do not model diversity and inclusion are unlikely to create schools that are equitable and culturally sustaining.
Our presentation format acknowledges the reality that many schools do not have the tools they need to act on good intentions for best practice. The use of pre-post advance organizers and reflection prompts and performance tasks are specifically designed for safe and user-friendly knowledge exchange, skill development, and practice.

Differentiated prompts or performance tasks will be introduced as advanced organizers for participants for pre- and post-reflection. Self-reflection will be encouraged for participants to initiate thought on how their work-session discoveries connect to educator best practices that best engages today’s students for equitable success.

For each guidepost, this interactive session will use differentiated
reflective practice or performance tasks to guide participant(s)
individual and collaborative responses to questions such as:

Guidepost #1 Culturally Responsive Normsa. (Beginning-Intermediate): What steps will I take to establish culturally responsive norms with my grade-level team?
b. (Intermediate- Advanced): How can I use courageous conversations as a reference for framing the development of culturally responsive norms?

Guidepost #2 Cultural Proficiency Continuum

a. (Beginning-Intermediate): How can I use the cultural proficiency continuum to advance my growth as a culturally competent school educator?
b. (Intermediate-Advanced): How can I use the cultural proficiency continuum as a tool to promote asset-based instructional and behavioral decision-making?

Guidepost #3 Essential Elements of Cultural Proficiency

a. (Beginning-Intermediate): How do I recognize the essential elements of cultural proficiency through the lens of instruction, behavior, school culture and climate?
b. (Intermediate-Advanced): How would I present a crosswalk between the essential elements of cultural proficiency and ESSA to my school-based team?

Guidepost #4 Collaborative Inquiry for Equitable Data Analysis

a. (Beginning-Intermediate): What components are essential to proactive and equitable data analysis?
b. (Intermediate-Advanced): How do risk ratios, implicit bias, micro-aggressions, and vulnerable decision-making frame teacher efficacy for implementing higher level data analysis through an equity lens?”


This presentation is intended for audiences that are responsible for teaching, leadership, and/or decision-making that impact diverse children, youth, and their families. Participants are expected to engage in the session with a mindset that connects intentional thought with considerations related to civil rights and social justice that lead to culturally sustaining practice.