Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Simply Equity

The last part of my post, the one I couldn't finish all the way, has to do with equity.  I got assigned to a Pacific Equity Academy Cadre last May.  The purpose for the cadre, made up of members from Hawaii, Guam, the CNMI, Chuuk, Republic of the Marshalls, Yap, Pohnpei, Kosrae and Palau is to share the message of Educational Equity among entities.  It's roots come from the Civil Rights Movement, ensuring that people are treated fairly regardless of age, race, religion and (although not protected by the civil rights act) sexual orientation. 
The key components of Educational Equity are Access, Attitudes, Materials, Assessment, Interactions, Language, and Instruction.  The goal is to provide equal opportunity for all children to succeed in school by making sure each child is offered all the components available.  The first step is understanding where each of us comes from.  The civil rights act, FERPA, FAPE, IDEA, school policies, board policies, local laws are all foundations for childrens' rights.  It's easy to enforce these laws because there are severe legal penalties for breaking them.  That's the stick.  No one likes the stick.  But, let's say for a minute we don't focus on the stick. We focus on the carrot, the children.  Although these laws are here to protect them, the spirit of the law, at least to me, is the most important part.
Understanding 1) that all children can be successful and 2) the Pacific child is the key to creating and maintaining schools that are student centered.  Whether you measure success by school climate,organizational effectiveness, achievement scores or the amount of awards in the trophy case, we cannot move towards that without first recognizing and valuing the children that walk through our school gates.
In January we met for the second time, not only to plan the implementation of training, but to share our unique stories.  I would also say to debunk pre-conceived notions about the non-English speaking, economically disadvantaged, provincial children who transfer from region to region and school to school.  We spent two days sharing our cultural snapshots embedded with equity components and the needs of our particular entities.  We learned that when children do not come to school for long periods of time it is not because their parents do not value education.  We learned that the auntie who comes to report card day has the same right to be there as mom. We learned that you cannot assess a child's intelligence by the clothes he wears or predict a child's future by the language she doesn't speak. 
The next step is to form a local cadre and build an understanding of each key component and the implications for our region, so that we can strengthen our schools while appreciating the things that make us unique. It's not an easy task, but nothing of great worth is.  On a personal note, we spend so much time in meetings talking about policies and procedures, curriculum and assessment, all things crucial to a well run school district.  It was nice for once, to take so much time discussing the real stakeholders, the kids and refocus on interactions and attitudes, the thing that drives a truly healthy, safe, sustainable and thriving school system.

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