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

Posted in Current Events, Leadership, leading for equity | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Follow on Twitter:



Posted in DACA, 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


Posted in Leadership | Leave a comment

Partner Blog: The Impact of NEP

We are humbled by this glowing and affirming piece on one leader’s experience of our work, published Next Gen Learning Challenges. Thank you, Next Gen, Greg Klein, and Sarah Luchs!

Leading and Designing for Equity in Oakland

In our blog series on equity, we’ve periodically featured the work of regional partners. These partners represent the seven regional hubs actively cultivating local learning networks, next gen school designs, and self-directed professional learning communities. In this edition, we allow our gaze to fall upon some bright and colorful blooms maturing in the Oakland ecosystem.

A seed is planted

Greg Klein is Senior Director of Innovation and Learning for the Rogers Family Foundation. Earlier this spring, he shared a vision for equity generated by the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) and expressed in this Equity Pledge. “There’s a long history here. It’s uplifting…a kind of renewal unfolding,” he said.

In our conversation, Greg communicated respect and gratitude for the efforts of the National Equity Project—  a longtime local partner. He recalled his first exposure – many years ago as a middle school teacher –  to NEP’s leadership coaching approach. “It was one of the most powerful professional learning experiences of my professional career. That experience had a profound effect on how I view my work,” reflected Greg. “It shaped how and why I do what I do today.”

Read the full post here.
Posted in Coaching, Complex Systems, Inspiration, Leadership, leading for equity, National Equity Project, Partners | Leave a comment

PolicyLink asks, Will You #ClaimTheTorch?

NEP stands in solidarity with PolicyLink’s #ClaimTheTorch campaign, which encourages us all “to ignite, expand, and advance the conversation on equity.”

Enjoy this catalyzing video, produced by Wyatt Close and Big Bowl of Ideas, and accompanied by the powerful words of Mayda del Valle, who reminds us, “A movement is not a flash of light — it is a flame, a torch passed from one generation to the next and every so often we are blessed with moments where the smolder transforms to blaze again and we’re forced to race down the path of progress.”

Will you #ClaimTheTorch?

Posted in Changing the Discourse, Inspiration, Partners, racial equity, Structural Racism | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

NEP Incubating the Black Teacher Project

“Every child deserves a Black teacher.”

We are excited to announce another new partnership – with the Black Teacher Project!

LaShawn Chatmon Micia Mosely

NEP Executive Director LaShawn Routé Chatmon & Black Teacher Project Founder Micia Mosely

The Black Teacher Project (BTP) recruits, develops, and sustains Black teachers for schools in the United States. Their goal is to create an effective teaching force that reflects the diversity of Black people in this country. To achieve this goal, the BTP:

  1. Develops specific recruitment strategies for future Black teachers;
  2. Develops supports for Black teachers to sustain themselves personally and professionally;
  3. Conducts research on Black teacher health and sustainability.

Black Teacher ProjectThe Black Teacher Project was founded by Micia Mosely – an enormous intellect, super-connector, leader, ally, comedian and former staff member! By incubating the BTP, NEP will serve as their fiscal agent as they work to secure their initial start-up revenue. We are also providing office and meeting space for BTP’s West coast operations.

Learn more at www.blackteacherproject.org, find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/blackteacherproject, follow on Twitter at @blackteacherpro or contact Micia at micia@blackteacherproject.org.

Posted in Partners | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Leading for Equity by Sharing Our Stories

I just returned from facilitating another Leading for Equity Institute; the National Equity Project has been hosting these Institutes annually for over 14 years. I have been at most of the these institutes and it is very common for people to not fully understand the kind of “equity training” they are coming to, which then provokes a fair amount of anxiety. One participant expressed it this way at the end of her time with us:

 “I came into this weekend nervous and afraid. What was going to be said? Would I understand it? I have no connection to my own culture and haven’t experienced any racial issues personally. What I experienced was nothing short of amazing. For someone as naïve and as uneducated as me the process was eye opening and so supportive. I look to the future hopefully and know that it can and will start with me.”

We hold a deep belief that people can solve their own problems. And we believe that Leading for Equity is fundamentally about taking responsibility for what matters to you. Taking responsibility as a leader for equity always begins with the ability to listen deeply and well to yourself and others.

An essential element in our Leading for Equity Institute is a structure called a personal experience panel. It is a constructivist listening practice we use to listen to each other and share our stories.

Leading for Equity

Jan 2015 Leading for Equity Institute
Marconi Conference Center, Tomales Bay, CA

Because you “only know what you know when you need to know it” – it is difficult to get at aspects of knowledge, feelings, values and beliefs that are held inside but rarely talked about. When people tell each other stories about their experiences, the social negotiations that take place create to some extent the feeling of being “in the field of fire” or in the state of “needing to know”. Thus hidden knowledge (thoughts and feelings) surface and become available in ways it could not otherwise do so. Telling stories allows people to disclose sensitive information on issues and experience about oppression, privilege, leadership and power without attribution or blame, because the inherent distance between perceived reality and narration provides safety for truth telling.

What we are after in inviting people to participate on a personal experience panel are not purposeful stories, which are indicative of what people believe is expected of them, but anecdotal stories, which are more unguarded and truthful. For personal sensemaking sharing some of your story before a group of attentive and supportive listeners is often powerful and healing.

Posted in Conferences & Events, Constructivist Listening, racial equity, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Holiday Greetings: Let the Light of Justice Shine

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. - William Butler Yeats

As 2014 draws to a close, we add our voice to the millions of people all over the world struggling to make meaning, take productive action and maintain a sense of optimism in the face of injustice. We lift up the lives of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and dozens of young men and women whose lives were cut short by a system that refuses to recognize their humanity. Their lives do matter – these recent events have sparked civic action and dialogue naming systemic oppression and racial bias at the heart of national discourse and demands for change.

Whether it’s our judicial system or our education system, there isn’t a simple answer to eliminating racialized outcomes. These complex equity challenges require new ways of working, thinking, and being together. We have to look for and lift up the bright spots, inclusive and creative approaches that justly serve young people and families. We have to talk to each other about what scares us, what confuses us, what inspires us. At times we may fall short, but we will not make progress if we don’t work and learn together.

Please consider the National Equity Project in your holiday giving this year. Your generous donation helps us continue to support leaders to tackle complex problems and find innovative solutions in their work toward equity for children and families.

To donate online visit bit.ly/nep-donate. To donate by mail please send a check to National Equity Project, 1720 Broadway, 4th Fl, Oakland, CA 94612.

We wish you a hopeful and healing holiday season and New Year.

Warm regards,
LaShawn Routé Chatmon
Executive Director

Posted in Inspiration | Leave a comment

Equity and the Common Core

The question on my mind these days is: Will the Common Core, on the whole, be a force for equity? Or will it wind up reproducing the current inequities in our system?

Literacy educator Alfred Tatum asks this question even more provocatively:

Will the CCSS yield the promise for African American and Latino boys that reshapes the trend for college and career readiness to be on par with the best young minds in the nation?


Will the CCSS serve as a metaphorical noose that hangs young African American and Latino boys from data sheets until the next best reform effort comes along?

At the National Equity Project, we view the Common Core through a lens of equity. We believe in the potential promise of the Common Core. And we’re clear that unless educators approach its implementation with an eye to the predictably differential impacts it will have, that promise will go unrealized.

This post begins a blog series dedicated to Equity and the Common Core. We’ll explore a range of issues from an equity perspective: instruction, collaboration, implementation, student-teacher relationships, Common Core and complexity, john powell’s notion of “targeted universalism” and the Common Core, implicit bias, coaching in the Common Core, and more.

So let’s start at the “core” of the Common Core – what happens in the relationship between a student and a teacher. How will students, especially those experiencing less success, and especially those who are black and brown, experience teaching and teachers within this new Common Core era? How will the combination of (presumably) higher expectations, (theoretically) more engaging content, and new forms of assessment shape their learning experience? Their motivation and ownership of their learning? Their belief in themselves?

And for educators, how will the demands of the Common Core shape our experience of our students, especially those further from success? Using an equity lens, one thing we can predict about the Common Core is that it will surface tensions in educators’ beliefs about “all students can learn.” 

The Common Core indeed represents a “higher” bar – both for student learning and for instruction. So the more important question is how will we, as educators, respond to familiar patterns of student failure – and to new forms of struggle? In the words of the DuFour’s well-known PLC question #3: What will happen when students don’t learn? Will we unconsciously (or even consciously) tell ourselves (or others) that some of our students may not be suited for this kind of learning? Will we believe that “raising the bar” will necessarily leave some (potentially more?) students “behind”? As we continue to see drops in students’ scores – and increases in achievement gaps – as Common Core assessments get first implemented, how might that impact our confidence that these standards are a reachable goal for students who are further from success already?

Understandably these issues can be hard to name and explore. I do not raise these questions to blame teachers or leaders, but rather to ask “What keeps reproducing these perceptions and experiences for teachers and students?” We must examine the ways our education institutions are structured at all levels, including classrooms, to see what keeps reproducing this experience.

It is important to normalize, not pathologize, the equity-related challenges that we face as we learn to teach and lead in the Common Core. And we need to see these actually as not so different from the challenges our students face. The Common Core calls upon students to engage in deeper learning… to take risks… to fail… and to learn from this failure. We should accept – no embrace – that we as adult educators are called upon to engage in a parallel struggle. This might give us some empathy – and some new openings in our relationships with students as we learn together to navigate this new era.

At the National Equity Project we have a framework for developing student-teacher relationships towards deeper engagement for struggling students, the capacity for independent learning, and ultimately the acceleration of their learning. We call this framework a Learning Partnership. A Learning Partnership is a purposeful, culturally responsive relationship between the teacher and student. We believe Learning Partnerships are even more critical in this era of the Common Core – and enable teachers and students alike to navigate the challenges of deeper learning.

We will engage educators with these ideas and more at our upcoming learning seminar – Keeping Students at the Core of the Common Core: Learning Partnerships for Equity taking place in the SF Bay area in October and January. Learn more and register online today at http://nationalequityproject.org/events/common-core-learning-partnerships.

As our colleague, Zaretta Hammond, puts forth:

If we take the time to help students build their capacity to learn and leverage their culture as a vehicle for making content “sticky,” we will find they are better prepared for the rigors of the Common Core State Standards.

Zaretta’s new book, Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students is available for pre-order on Amazon.

Posted in Conferences & Events, Current Events, Equity Pedagogy, Learning Partnerships, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where To Start When Your Team Gets Stuck

Leaders I’ve worked with often express frustration when they feel clear about the equity work they are addressing, clear with others about where the group needs to go – but somehow the group gets stuck. Some members seem resistant, some aren’t engaging – for whatever reason, important work isn’t getting done.

When I’m coaching leaders in these situations, I often start by asking them to step back and get curious about what their people might be thinking, experiencing, and feeling. At the National Equity Project we have found great value in the work of John Heron who reminds us: “The dynamic of the group is grounded in the life of emotion and feeling. A crucial role of the facilitator is to manage the dynamic at the affective level.

Particularly with groups that are just getting started, or have just never seemed to “gel”, we consider how Heron’s “3 Forms of Anxiety” may be playing out:

Acceptance Anxiety (WHO): To what extent do people feel they belong and are valued on this team? How well do they know one another or feel comfortable expressing what they believe, want or need? How are these needs playing out across differences of race, gender, sexuality, role, experience?

Orientation Anxiety (WHY & HOW): How well to people understand why they are here and what they’re up to together? To what extent do they feel they’ve been a part of developing the team’s direction, or feel identified with the work of the team? How clear are they about what to expect about how the team will operate as they work together toward a goal?

Performance Anxiety (WHAT): To what degree do people feel confident that they have what they need to do what’s demanded? What levels of will, skill, knowledge & capacity are needed to tackle the equity challenges this team is taking responsibility for? Are they ready? Do they need more support?

All of these fears are human needs that play out in different ways for people – especially when there are changes in a group’s membership or focus. And all of them require both in-the-moment facilitation skills and thoughtful planning and design of team meeting time – to find ongoing ways to give time and support to address the needs in service of the equity work the team is working toward.

Posted in Conferences & Events, Facilitative Leadership, Leadership, Meeting Design | Leave a comment