RPIC ICS Implementation Digital Module 5: Develop Equity Non-Negotiables
© 2015 to 2023. Elise M. Frattura and Colleen A. Capper. School Modules for ICS Equity. All rights reserved. You may not reproduce, modify, or distribute this work without written consent from the authors. Please email [email protected] to obtain such permission.
1. Current Practices Based on Common Assumptions
School districts across the country have mission statements that allude to aspirations for successful graduates. For example, all students will do well and have post-secondary options as they become productive members of their communities. However, few districts have delineated the common core principles or Equity Non-Negotiables that can define how we will meet those aspirations, basically how to operationalize equity.
2. Equitable Best Practices
The notion that each student is entitled to a high-quality integrated and comprehensive education with their peers is not negotiable. Leaders have a strong Equity Non-Negotiable vision that each student belongs. Simply claiming goals such as “improving achievement for all children” or “success for all” is not enough. Leaders make it clear that all students are a part of this vision, including those students who are typically not considered during school reform practices, such as students with severe disabilities or students with challenging behaviors, LGBTQIA+ students, or students who, because of appearance, style of clothes, or who are linguistically diverse, do not “fit in”.
For the purposes of these Digital Modules, socially just educational opportunities are premised on proportional representation (often referred to as natural proportions or mirroring the demographic pool) without compromise. Proportional representation means that the demographics of the school are reflected in every classroom, course, activity, setting, or experience within the school. For example, if 12% of students are labeled with a disability, then no more than 12% of students in any classroom, course, activity, setting, or experience are students labeled with a disability. Proportional representation applies to grade levels when assigning students labeled with disabilities, students who are linguistically diverse, and students labeled as gifted. That is if 12% of the students in the school are labeled with a disability and 20% of the students in the school are linguistically diverse, and there are six third grade classrooms, then no more than 12% of students in each third-grade classroom have a disability and no more than 20% of students in each classroom are linguistically diverse. Students who are linguistically diverse and students who have disabilities are equally assigned across each of the six classrooms.
Holding both goals — achievement and belonging for all learners — in high priority, is essential. But without a delineation of Equity Non-Negotiables that can provide a road map to assist in making such goals operational, we (as school districts) tend to continue to perpetuate a program model and achievement/opportunity gaps for students with disabilities, students who are linguistically diverse, students of color, and students experiencing poverty. Therefore, the following Equity Non-Negotiables that reflect the Four Cornerstones of Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity, are offered as exemplary Equity Non-Negotiables:
Figure 1: Four Cornerstones of Integrated Comprehensive Systems for Equity
Cornerstone 1: Focus on Equity
1. Eliminating inequities begins with ourselves.
2. The system is responsible for student failure.
Cornerstone 2: Align Staff and Students
3. All staff are aligned to Co-Plan to Co-Serve to Co-Learn Teams (C3) to support cohesive instruction.
4. Students are proportionally represented in the core of teaching and learning.
Cornerstone 3: Transform Teaching and Learning
5. Co-Plan to Co-Serve to Co-Learn (C3) Teams intentionally develop each other’s capacity.
6. Instruction is based on Identity Relevant Teaching and Learning (IRTL) and created for each learner the first time the concept/skill is taught through heterogeneous small group instruction.
Cornerstone 4: Leverage Policy and Funding
7. Policies and funding are aligned to these Equity Non-Negotiables.
3. ‘Operationalizing’ Our WorkThe District Leadership Team (DLT) and School Leadership Teams (SLT) are responsible for moving the work of developing the Equity Non-Negotiables forward (see Digital Module 7/Step 7). In this manner, the work can be supported top-down and bottom-up. Table 1 below reflects the results of our current model (our design flaws) compared to the Equity Non-Negotiables, to interrupt the design to better “design to the edges”.1 Appendix A offers an example of using the deficit-based practices with the recommended Equity Non-Negotiables, followed by a column for the District or School to create their own.
Table 1: Deficits (Design Flaws) vs. Assets (Equity Non-Negotiables)
Once a school board adopts the Equity Non-Negotiables, they can be used to leverage the work to move from a reactive or deficit-based system to a proactive system of high-quality instruction for all learners. A list of examples of how to use the Equity Non-Negotiables is delineated in Table 2 below and detailed throughout Digital Modules/Steps 1-14 of the ICS Equity Framework and Process.
Table 2: Examples of How to Use District Equity Non-Negotiables by Cornerstone
Equity Non-Negotiable Process
We suggest that SLT’s begin the Equity Non-Negotiables process with the ICS Equity Non-Negotiables we delineate in this Digital Module. In this manner, the District is certain to attend to those Non-Negotiables that intentionally interrupt the problems with the current educational system, the problems that blame and label students, and that respond to diversity through practices of segregation.
Step 1: The School Leadership Teams (SLT) complete Activity 1: Initial Feedback for the Equity Non-Negotiables (included at the end of this Digital Module). When completing this document, it is essential to think about the strength of the specific Equity Non-Negotiable for the district, not how one might implement it. The discussion often includes specific words that teams may want to change or modify, or questions that SLT members have about the Equity Non-Negotiable. Once each School Leadership Team has provided the strengths and any discussion for each specific Equity Non-Negotiable relative to their district, they save and submit their document to the DLT.
Step 2: The District Leadership Team then reviews the feedback from all the SLT’s, and begins their process of completing the first draft of their District Equity Non-Negotiables.
Step 3: Once the DLT has the first draft of their District’s Equity Non-Negotiables, they send the edited draft of the Equity Non-Negotiables back to the SLT’s. When it is time for each SLT to share out the work of Digital Module 5 with their colleagues, the SLT should use the District’s draft Equity Non-Negotiables. Specifically, the SLT should make sure to use the District’s Draft Equity Non-Negotiables (instead of the ICS Equity Non-Negotiables), as they share out the information in the presentation attached to Digital Module 5. In addition, the SLT should also use the challenges of their current educational structure that they delineated as part of the activity of drawing our current educational structures in Digital Module 1. In this manner, the presentation is then reflective of the specific work of the school and district.
Step 4: The SLT’s may then complete Activity 2 below, the Around the World Activity:
1. Write one Equity Non-Negotiable on the top of large poster paper and one vertical line underneath to create two columns. The first column is What Resonates, and the second column is What Gives Pause. Post the seven (or as many Equity Non-Negotiables that have been drafted) large pieces of paper around the room with several markers at each poster paper.
2. Count off group members by seven to form seven groups, and each group will start at one of the 7 poster papers. The facilitator begins the timer, each group will have 5 minutes to read the Equity Non-Negotiable and then complete the following two steps for each Equity Non-Negotiable:
a. Edit it as needed.
b. In each column write what resonates and then what gives them pause in the other column.
Music plays at the timer, and then the seven teams rotate to the next Equity Non-Negotiable. The full activity should take between 50 and 60 minutes, including time to provide directions.
Step 5: The information from each school’s Activity 2 is then shared with the DLT. The DLT then completes the final version of the District’s Equity Non-Negotiables. The final version is shared with the School Board and provided as a policy to guide the district’s work in operationalizing equity to meet the mission and vision of the district.
Step 1 may also be completed with the entire school, in cross-discipline small groups. If Step 1 is adapted, the SLT would then take the information from Activity 1 and combine the small group feedback into one document and forward it to the DLT.
The final version is shared with the School Board and provided as a policy to guide the district’s work in operationalizing equity to meet the mission and vision of the district.
Optional School Activity:
Optional activity for small group teams of educators to better understand the practical use of each Equity Non-Negotiable, is to review the District’s Equity Non-Negotiables and delineate examples of what each Equity Non-Negotiable means and does not mean, specifically for their school. See the School Process for Coaching handout attached to this Digital Module.
4. Creating Our Plan for Cornerstone 1: Focus on Equity; School Digital Module/Step 5: Equity Non-Negotiables and Proportional Representation
In the next ICS Application, you’ll, discuss and then delineate the current practices that must be interrupted. Discuss future recommendations of how to share the information in this Digital Module and the steps necessary to ‘operationalize’ such recommendations.
1. National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2010). UDL: Principles and practices. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGLTJw0GSxk