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.
The ClassroomStudents, 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 SystemFamily & 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.
Table above from Moving the Race Conversation ForwardPart 1, Page 3