5 Steps for Liberating Public Education From Its Deep Racial Bias

National Equity Project Executive Director LaShawn Routé Chatmon and Regional Director Kathleen Osta authored a piece in this week’s Education Week newspaper on 5 Steps for Liberating Public Education From Its Deep Racial Bias. The article outlines ways to implement social emotional learning in service of educational equity. Read the full article here or in this week’s Education Week.


Also check out The Aspen Institute for Education and Society’s Call to Action: Pursuing Social and Emotional Development Through a Racial Equity Lens to help identify ways in which equity and social, emotional, and academic development can be mutually reinforcing.

Posted in Changing the Discourse, racial equity, social emotional learning | Leave a comment

LaShawn Routé Chatmon at #EdEquityForum2018


Registration is now open for The Education Trust—West’s Education Equity Forum 2018 – Bright Spots: Prioritizing Equity in School Improvement and Student Success Efforts. The 2nd annual Forum will give school and district leadership teams as well as higher education administrators and practitioners an opportunity to converse, connect, and collaborate. Attendees will learn about new and best practices for supporting students, strengthening our schools and colleges, and closing opportunity and achievement gaps.

This year’s Forum will include National Equity Project’s Executive Director LaShawn Routé Chatmon as a featured speaker, as well as interactive breakout sessions, engaging plenaries, and networking opportunities. For a full list of confirmed speakers and to register visit www.edequityforum.org.


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Equity Leadership in Novato, CA

For several years now, Novato Unified School District has embarked on a journey towards equity in education in their community.  This journey began with developing equity consciousness and awareness amongst leaders so that they could look at their school system, identify challenges to student achievement, see how the system is operating all through an equity lens.

To do this well, leaders had to work from the inside out – examining their own racial conditioning, discovering their own biases, and developing a heart and mind based on educational justice. Superintendent Jim Hogeboom has courageously taken leadership for equity at NUSD as evidenced by his November Reflection and is an example of how leaders can use their equity consciousness to take action.  Here’s his November Reflection:

“With great power comes great responsibility.”

Lately there have been growing numbers of women who have come forth accusing various men in high profile positions of sexual harassment and sexual abuse.  As a white male in a powerful position as the Superintendent here in Novato Unified, I am more and more cognizant of my responsibility to speak out against not only sexual harassment towards women, but also to act on my commitment to equity and social justice.

Many men don’t realize that women have to live on a daily basis with some level of fear for their safety.  When I go out for a run at night, park in a dark parking lot, or am alone on a street at night and encounter a man, I am not afraid and never have to plan for my escape from a potentially dangerous situation.  Similarly, I have never had someone make discriminatory comments about my gender, put their hand on my knee under the table, or try to physically touch me in a way I felt was inappropriate.  I don’t have to carry pepper spray in my pocket, or be afraid of being overpowered.  While these kinds of things happen to women all the time, as a male I never have to worry about this or deal with the aftermath. I’ve learned that, as men, we may not really understand the impact of this kind of behavior on our female counterparts.

As a white man I also realize that I have been the benefactor of white privilege.  This means that I’ve had a lot of advantages in my life that have helped me and have made my life easier in certain ways.  I first realized this when I was teaching at Tamalpais High School and became friends with my assistant principal, who is African American.  He would share stories of being pulled over in his car by a cop for no reason (and then let go when they realized who he was), followed in a store, and stared at by strangers.  He was often the only African American in the room or meeting, and he knew he was always being judged.  On a daily basis we know that people of color have to put up with a barrage of prejudice and racism, some of it overt and some of it discreet.  As a white male, I have not had to justify why I am in a certain location, what my motives are behind my actions, and I have not been denied access (to housing, loans, property events, etc.) because of the color of my skin.  These occurrences happen every day to our Latino, Asian, Native American and African American brothers and sisters, and they take a toll on one’s self-esteem, sense of worth, and belonging in the world.

Recently a Marin Independent Journal editorial referred to a report from the Advancement Project California which ranked Marin as “the most racially unequal county in California” as measured by seven factors:  democracy, economic opportunity, crime and justice, access to health care, healthy built environments, education and housing.  We see that while Marin is on top in performance in areas like economic opportunity, culture and education for some, there are many more people for whom our system is not working.

What I have learned from my friends of color, from my female friends and from my students is that if I want to make our community a place where all of us feel valued, included and respected, then I MUST act to interrupt situations where racism and sexism are displayed.  It is not enough to be self-aware and to model positive behavior; I have the RESPONSIBILITY to speak up and speak out when I see acts of disrespect and denigration.

As the leader of the largest school district in Marin, I must also act to ensure that those students furthest from opportunity reach their goals no matter how wide the current gaps.  This also points to the responsibility that exists for those of us for whom the system is working to advocate for those for whom the system is not working.  As our NUSD Equity Imperative declares, “Equity in NUSD means ensuring that every student has access to educational opportunities that challenge, inspire, and prepare him or her for a strong future. The educational failure of any one student impacts the entire Novato community.”  We will continue to work with staff and students in our schools to promote equity, respect and acceptance of diversity in all its beautiful forms.

Those of us in positions of power, and those of us, particularly white males, who have benefitted from our positions in the system, have a moral duty, obligation and responsibility to act.  We can no longer stand on the sidelines and tolerate acts of inequality.  It is only through empathy and through action that we can make a difference so that we can ALL share in the promise of a great life here in Novato and in Marin County.

– Jim Hogeboom, Superintendent, Novato Unified School District

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Our Freedoms Are Eternally Won

“Words like freedom, justice, and democracy are not common concepts; on the contrary, they are rare. People are not born knowing what they are.  It takes enormous…effort to arrive at the respect for other people that these words imply.”  

– James Baldwin

Today and every day we stand with and support our immigrant brothers and sisters, children and families.

President Trump’s announcement two weeks ago to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is the latest blow in an unrelenting assault against communities of color forced to live in the margins of our society. We stand knowing that our country’s collective identity and all we espouse to value is hanging in the balance.  Two weeks later, we can claim a small win for bearing witness to thousands of institutional, civic, organizational, community and even politicians standing on the right side of justice, demanding that we make manifest the rights we so readily invoke of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness especially for our nation’s young people.

Leaders stood together across many forms of difference – and asserted that there is no comprehensible justification for forcibly removing 800,000 hardworking people from their homes, our schools, our organizations, and our communities. Allies and advocates took to the streets, halls of congress, school board meetings, and city councils demanding protections against this unspeakable injustice.

We are living in unacceptable times. The vulnerability of DACA shows how even recent attempts at dismantling injustice can be reversed. We need to create systems that unalterably move us toward justice and equity. A daily glance at the front page can trigger fear, rage, anxiety, or even willful ignorance. We must create spaces to listen, heal divisions, think, talk, and the flood of emotions, individually and collectively, in order to transform negative energy into positive action.

There have been great efforts made by this administration at othering. Whether it’s Muslims, Mexicans, or now the 800,000 DREAMers, we must do what has always been done throughout this country’s painful and proud history – we must act, resist, demand, strategize, and persevere. Our ancestors have already paid the price of our freedoms.

We must remember who we are.

Maya Angelou reminds us that “History, despite its wrenching pain cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”  We will not allow the nation’s leaders to erase the contributions, beauty, service, gifts, and voices of black and brown immigrant children and families living in this country.

The National Equity Project supports, lifts up and celebrates leaders working to fight unjust policies and practices, and we will continue to create spaces of belonging that allow all of us to explore and sustain our undeniably linked fate and future.

“From the depth of need and despair, people can work together, can organize themselves to solve their own problems and fill their own needs with dignity and strength.”

– Cesar Chavez

Join us in demanding that Congress act quickly to integrate the protections of DACA into law. Meanwhile, we hope the resources below will be helpful to educators and families who are seeking to support and protect our children.

Educator & Advocate Resources

We Are Here to Stay

What’s it Like to Be a Dreamer?

Inner Racism Revealed

Congress.gov.DREAM Act

Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teach for Tolerance ProgramImmigrant and Refugee Children: A Guide for Educators and School Support Staff

National Education Association | Legislative Action Center

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Resources

5 questions educators are asking about ICE raids and supporting immigrant youth

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Remember: There Is No Apolitical Classroom

Chalkboard sign letters "Racism"

As thousands of young people return to school, remember there is no apolitical classroom.

Telling the truth is not changing history – it’s what will prevent us from repeating it. Click on the following link for tools and ideas to support your truth-telling in the classroom, from the National Council of Teachers of English: There Is No Apolitical Classroom: Resources for Teaching in These Times

What great resources would you add to the list?




Posted in Bias, Changing the Discourse, Complex Systems, Current Events, Effective Teaching, Equity Pedagogy, Leadership, leading for equity, racial equity, Resources & Publications, Schools, Structural Racism | Leave a comment

Hate and Hurt in America: On Charlottesville

From our fierce leader, LaShawn Chatmon:

Now more than ever we must stand resolute — committed to lead through listening, to lead with love, to lead with a historical and structural analysis – to lead for equity.

The terror and violent tragedy in Charlottesville exposed an ugly, painful truth, an unreconciled history. We cannot progress toward a just and equitable future and not understand our past – or be willing to confront and take action against present injustice.

We appreciate the scholarship and wisdom of john a. powell. May his words provide some solace in this dark hour.

Keep your hands on the plough equity warriors, for in the words of a King, “the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Gather friends and allies…We have work to do.

protestShared under CC-BY. Original image by Black Lives Matter Black Friday.


Posted in Bias, Changing the Discourse, Complex Systems, Current Events, Inspiration, leading for equity, racial equity, Structural Racism | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Leading for Equity in Battle Creek, MI

We are so proud and inspired by our colleagues in Battle Creek, Michigan. NEP has supported the Battle Creek Vision for the past year as they have worked to take renewed action around creating equitable opportunities for all students in their community. This first joint school board meeting is an incredible culmination – and launch – of a new vision for equity in Battle Creek.

“By working together, leaders across the city are committing to ensuring every child in this community has access to a quality education regardless of their zip code. It is not acceptable to continue tolerating a ‘haves’ and ‘have not’ system of education. This is an exciting time for the families and students of Battle Creek.” – Kim Carter, Superintendent of Battle Creek Public Schools

Superintendents from four Battle Creek school districts kick off first joint school board meeting to ensure success for all students

Battle Creek, Mich. – The superintendents and board members of the four school districts serving Battle Creek students held their first joint school board session today at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as the first step in a collaborative effort to ensure all students in Battle Creek have access to an equitable, high-quality education.

Superintendents from Battle Creek Public Schools (BCPS), Harper Creek Community Schools, Lakeview School District and Pennfield Schools called the historic meeting to build relationships across the districts and reflect on the BCVision College and Career Readiness education study, conducted by New York University’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.  During the joint school board session, the superintendents and board members talked about the shared fate for Battle Creek and suggested ways to further collaborate.

“By working together, leaders across the city are committing to ensuring every child in this community has access to a quality education regardless of their zip code. It is not acceptable to continue tolerating a ‘haves’ and ‘have not’ system of education. This is an exciting time for the families and students of Battle Creek,” said Kim Carter, superintendent of Battle Creek Public Schools. “This work requires the sustainability and success of each of the four districts. We recognize that the strength of each district – and of the city of Battle Creek – will come from collaborating and learning together, not competing with each other.”

The education study, which was released in January, found that policies have worsened racial and socioeconomic segregation in the area schools, resulting in declining resources and academic achievement at Battle Creek Public Schools.

“The study made very clear that the educational opportunities and the conditions for students to succeed are not experienced equitably in Battle Creek. This not only impacts our children, but our community as a whole,” said WKKF President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron, who attended the meeting and has called upon the community to rally behind all Battle Creek children to ensure they achieve academic success. “If we target our efforts and resources where the needs are the greatest, then our community becomes stronger.”

Each superintendent said they are committed to collaborating to ensure equitable opportunities for all students in the greater Battle Creek area – regardless of which school or district they attend. They agreed to meet regularly to develop a strategy for the inter-district collaboration with support from the Center for Diversity and Innovation and the National Equity Project.

The group also announced a one-day learning session for school district leaders to participate in professional development training about educational equity. The goal is to promote learning about equity and cultural competence in all four districts.

“Although the work through BCVision has led us to this historic joint meeting, we are just starting to review the data to make decisions,” said Tim Everett, superintendent of Pennfield Schools. “The area superintendents, along with other stakeholders, will collaborate to identify and provide the support needed for each student to succeed.”

School leaders made the commitment to convene while attending the National Equity Project’s Leading for Equity Institute in Chicago in late March. Their participation in that summit was prompted by the NYU education study. The nine-person Battle Creek team attending the institute included Carter; Art McClenney, BCPS School Board president; Dave Peterson, superintendent of the Lakeview School District; Kathleen Moore, Lakeview School Board member; Rob Ridgeway, superintendent of Harper Creek Community Schools; Lisa Hubbard, Harper Creek School Board member; Barry Duckham, principal of Pennfield High School; Abby Green, Pennfield School Board member; and Jorge Zeballos, executive director for the Center for Diversity and Innovation.

“The NYU study highlighted a strong need to provide equitable educational opportunities for Battle Creek’s most vulnerable students,” said Ridgeway. “All four public school districts in the Battle Creek area have vulnerable students and coming together to help them will increase the educational outcomes for all.”

While the study also pointed to some positive news – access to early childhood education and graduation rates meet or exceed national averages throughout Battle Creek – results also showed the Battle Creek education system at large is failing many of its students. Conversations about racial and economic equity in education have been supported through BCVision, which has made the city’s education system and a commitment to equity the center of its strategy for revitalizing the city of Battle Creek.

“When I’m at the YMCA, Meijer, Menards or Taco Bell, I see Bearcat, Panther, Beaver and Spartan sweatshirts. We really are one community,” said Peterson. “It only makes sense to start acting like one community. By addressing our issues collaboratively, the entire Battle Creek area will thrive. We have to persevere and make this work successful.”


BC Vision is a community-driven movement for change focused on creating a place where we can all live, work and play. We envision a thriving community for all people, where there is equitable opportunity for residents to have the income, education and resources they need to be successful. There are many ways to get involved in BC Vision. Whatever your level of commitment, we have a place for you. To learn more, visit battlecreekvision.com. Questions? Email support@battlecreekvision.com or call (269) 719-8888. You can also follow BC Vision on Facebook at facebook.com/BattleCreekVision or Twitter: @BCVision.

Read More: School boards talk about equity, shared services


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