January 29, 2021


Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and
learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education.


Equity in Every Encounter


When considering equity in every lesson, it’s important to also consider equity in every interaction online and in person. Let’s begin by considering the definitions of equity and equality. Although both promote fairness, equality achieves this through treating everyone the same regardless of need, while equity achieves this through treating people differently depending on need. With equity, everyone gets what they need to be successful when they need it. I recently came across a few resources to help clarify what equity looks and sounds like in schools and classrooms remote or in person. I hope you find them useful. 


3 Big Ideas

      1. Unpack Social Justice Standards.
        The Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards website provides a set of anchor standards and age-appropriate learning outcomes divided into four domains—identity, diversity, justice, and action. Like most standards, these provide a common language and organizational structure: Teachers can use them to guide curriculum development, and administrators can use them to make schools more just, equitable, and safe. The standards are leveled for every stage of K–12 education and include school-based scenarios to show what anti-bias attitudes and behavior may look like in the classroom. Take the 20 Anchor Standards and replace the word “student” with “teacher” and read them. Then, replace the word “student” with “leader” and read them again. You will see that these are versatile, important, and applicable to any setting with any group. The anti-bias scenarios are a guide for teachers to shift their own mindset. For a powerful professional learning opportunity for staff, students, or families, take a few standards and place each on a T-Chart with “Looks Like” and “Sounds Like” as headings. Make time in a faculty meeting, class meeting, or community meeting  to list what would be seen and heard if each standard was being met. This is a great website with great resources!

        https://campaign-image.com/zohocampaigns/anchor-standards_zc_v1_2_719417000012698008.jpgThe graphic above is from the Social Justice Standards:
        The Teaching Tolerance Anti-Bias Framework

      2. Use Cultural Relevancy.
        The American Institute for Research’s (AIR) 2020 work described in “Three Strategies to Help States Elevate Educational Equity” details how eight states as part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Comprehensive Centers program are elevating education equity. We are learning more about which strategies are showing promise in improving cultural relevancy, and equity. In this article Veronica Tate highlights three common threads among the states.

        1. Prioritize meaningful and ongoing engagement from a broad and diverse group of stakeholders. This would mean involving representative stakeholders in real and meaningful work. I’d love to try the T-chart activity with the Social Justice Standards with this group and use the information to guide school improvement planning.
        2. Analyze the right data, mapped to essential problem-solving questions, to identify and address root causes of persistent equity-related challenges. 5-Whys and Fishbone Diagramming strategies are perfect for getting to root causes. Asking the right questions is critical and how questions are formed can help or hinder this effort. Be careful to not cast judgement in questions.
        3. Understand how policy decisions, program support, and resource allocations provide advantages to some communities or create barriers for others. Use an equity lens to offer support and resources. Take the group from number 1 above and run decisions with them asking for their input with regard to equity. Ask those directly affected and adjust. I still wonder why some high Title I schools have old rundown playgrounds and non-Title I schools have new engaging equipment. Has your district made the decision to fund all school’s fields instead of the PTA/PTO?
      3. Understand Family Engagement Looks Different in Every Family.
        Holly White’s October 2020 blog post Culturally Responsive Family Engagement in the Time of Remote Learningoffers useful and timely strategies worthy of sharing on your social media platform. Holly notes to better engage families, a culturally responsive teacher will do the following:

        • Acknowledge the family’s role as the student’s first teacher.
        • Recognize the potential of the home as a learning environment.
        • Understand how cultural differences and beliefs affect the family’s attitudes about education.
        • Maintain an openness to communicate through a variety of methods, including technology.
        • Recognize the risk factors of poverty and communicate the appropriate resources.
        • Respect the decisions made by families concerning the student’s academic future.
        • Empathize with the daily economic, personal, and psychological stresses in today’s families.
        • Include family and community wisdom in planning and messaging.
        • Understand how cultural differences matter.

        I’d add to Holly’s list to develop trusting relationships with all families and understand that remote learning is hard on everyone, but harder for some. Families have to be able to trust educators to be able to seek guidance or assistance.


“We can, whenever and wherever we choose, successfully teach all children whose
schooling is of interest to us. We already know more than we need in order to do this.
Whether we do it must finally depend on how we feel about the fact that we haven’t so far.”

– Dr. Ron Edmonds, educator, effective schools research guru, and former director of Harvard’s Center for Urban Studies


“He prayed—it wasn’t my religion.
He ate—it wasn’t what I ate.
He spoke—it wasn’t my language.
He dressed—it wasn’t what I wore.
He took my hand—it wasn’t the color of mine.
But when he laughed—it was how I laughed,
And when he cried—it was how I cried.”

– “Underneath We’re All The Same,” Amy Maddox, 16 years old, Teaching Tolerance, 1995


1 Question

How do you/will you use the Social Justice Standards in your work and interactions?



About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.










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