“Unless our children begin to learn together, then there is little hope that our people will ever learn to live together.”

—Thurgood Marshall
Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for being part of the network for the Reimagining Integration: Diverse and Equitable Schools (RIDES) project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE).  We have appreciated your time and your dedication to this work.

The RIDES project at HGSE will conclude on June 30, 2021. We thank the Harvard Graduate School of Education for launching and supporting the project; the Walton Family Foundation for its generous funding; and all our partners in schools and districts around the country who are doing important work to disrupt racism and promote equitable schools.

Over the last five and a half years, RIDES sought to increase the number and quality of intentionally diverse schools through the development of diagnostic surveys, action-oriented resources, and equity improvement cycle tools that will remain available for at least a year on the RIDES website and available for use under Creative Commons license. 

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The desired outcomes for diverse and equitable schools can be summarized in four categories. RIDES helps schools achieve the ABCDs through coaching, as well as collecting promising practices on the Resources section of our website.


All students have strong academic preparation, capitalizing on and connecting to students of all backgrounds, with high levels of knowledge and skills.


All students have a strong sense and appreciation of their own culture and heritage, as well as of those of their diverse classmates.

Commitment to dismantling racism and oppression

All students understand the role that institutional racism and other forms or oppression play in our society and have the skills, vision, and courage to dismantle them.


All students appreciate and value different perspectives, thoughts, and people and have friendships and collaborative working relationships with students and adults from different  racial and economic backgrounds


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The RIDES Equity Improvement Cycle brings together a key group of stakeholders (teachers, staff members, administrators and sometimes parents and students) to focus on a particular issue around equity at their school. Sometimes the focus is on classroom dynamics – what equity looks like in the relationships teachers have with students, how culturally connected the curriculum is, etc. The cycle can also focus on other equity issues, like disproportionate referrals of students of color for discipline, or difficulties a school or system has in hiring and retaining faculty of color.

The cycle is usually done over weeks or months (although it can be jump-started using the RIDES Three-Day Intensive, especially effective when partnering with students) and should always be part of ongoing systemic improvement work. Regardless of the length of the cycle or the topic, it is essential that the working group have a solid understanding and willingness to work on the personal and professional impacts of racism and develop the common definitions they need to guide the equity work and enough relational trust to be able to work together. We think of the development of Personal and Team Equity Culture as an initial and continuing requirement gets followed by six key steps that a well executed equity improvement cycle should provide.

To learn more and see how the Improvement Cycle can help your site disrupt inequity:

  • Watch an Equity Improvement Cycle Overview Video that provides an interactive self-assessment on how you and your colleagues can work smarter, not harder in working on equity improvement in your setting. Can be done solo, but particularly powerful if done with a team. Accompanying deck

  • If you are ready to pick an equity issue and start a cycle, watch

  • Read a summary of why the Improvement Cycle was developed, what it is, and how it can be implemented at your site here.

For details, please click here.


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We often work in schools that are trying single, isolated solutions in their efforts to build a better more diverse and equitable school - an inspired teacher introduces a culturally relevant lesson or a principal promotes a racial sensitivity training. However, these isolated solutions do not often radiate outwards into long-term, institutional change. We find it helpful to think instead using a systemic approach - paying attention to how the elements in three spheres intersect and influence one another.

RIDES Systemic Improvement Map

The Classroom

Students, Teachers, Curriculum

We start in the classroom, since at the heart of a diverse and equitable school are classes that are academically challenging, culturally connected for all kids, and places where courageous conversations about race and equity can take place. The first kind of systemic thinking we apply is to look at the way the three factors that matter at the instructional core —what teachers do, what the content (curriculum) is, and what the expectations and experiences for students are -- are linked, since if you change one without the others, you don’t get lasting impacts. For example, if you bring in a powerful new curriculum without training teachers on how to teach it, or students how to learn it, you don’t get much impact or sustainability.

The School and System

Family & Community Partnerships, Systems & Structures, Culture, Leadership

Next, we look at how the factors outside classrooms affect what goes on inside them. For example, systems and structures like tracking, or discipline approaches that disproportionately affect students of color, are bigger than any one classroom and yet affect all of them.


Institutionalized Racism and Oppression

Finally, we look at race, helping people move beyond seeing issues around race in schools (e.g. tracking, discipline systems) as individual or interpersonal it just happens to be 4 X more likely that a black student will be suspended in our school, or that almost all the kids in honors classes are white) rather than institutional. Watch four-minute Jay Smooth video.

Individual and Systemic Level Racism.PNG

Table above from Moving the Race Conversation ForwardPart 1, Page 3

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