How DCPS is hosting educators, students at the same table to address inequities

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (WDVM) — For the last three years, D.C. Public Schools has been using its Equity Framework to identify disparities in the school system and find ways to close those gaps in an anti-racist way. One of those ways is by taking its own teachers and principals “back to school,” by hosting a series of experts like school psychologist Byron McClure.

“Equity is the absence of disproportionality,” said McClure.

That disproportionality comes from policies and practices that were built during slavery and the Jim Crow Era that have persisted over time and still exist in D.C. schools. That might include zero-tolerance policies and discriminatory hair or uniform policies that leave Black and brown students disproportionately disciplined.

“Those are policies that are embedded in the very structure of our school systems, and so when we have these conversations it’s important to look at the structures that are perpetuating the harm being done to our Black youth,” McClure said.

“It’s not a matter of ‘100 percent of people get 100 percent of the same thing,’” Elizabeth Rene, manager of DCPS’s Equity and Strategy Programming Team, said. “It’s ‘100 percent of the people get what they need based on where they are,’ and we prioritize those needs based on who has the greatest needs or who’s farthest away from opportunity at the time, but also keeping historical context in mind.” 

Rene said that historical context could reach as far back as desegregation when classrooms were integrated but most policies, mindsets and practices didn’t change.

“Sometimes because those systems haven’t shifted or because we only put the policy into place or because we only shifted the practices, that’s why the same inequities exist,” she said. 

The Equity and Strategy Programming Team responds to hate crimes and incidents of bias, provides continuous professional development opportunities for DCPS staff, and develops new school equity plans across the District. 

The most important part is that educators and their students are seated at the same table when that happens.

“We have all these different thoughts and ideas coming together to create and design innovative solutions together and that’s where the magic happens,” said McClure. “That’s where change happens. And that’s where you work towards equity together and true liberation can come from.”

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