Mike McMahon AUSD
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Educational Excellence & Equity in Alameda

After reading the comments of Charles Willie on the complementary impacts of equity and excellence on education, I believe AUSD is moving in the right direction by adopting a definition of equity that acknowledges excellence also.

Before the Board adopted an Equity policy, there were numerous definitions of equity. After examining the District's racial achievement gap, studying a model for school reform and pondering the implications on the leadership structures for the District, it is clear we have our work cut out for us. The District's reform efforts on improving instructional practices is evolving in the single school plan process. However, one report indicates educational reform needs to recognize the impact of the District practices on equitable educational access. In order to create sustainable, district-wide instructional delivery improvement the Board hired a Superintendent whose vision is focused on excellence and equity.

The Executive Summary of Beyond Islands of Excellence: What Districts Can Do to Improve Instruction and Achievement in All Schools list these traits of effective districts focused on equity and excellence:

  1. Districts had the courage to acknowledge poor performance and the will to seek solutions
  2. Districts put in place a systemwide approach to improving instruction—one that articulated curricular content and provided instructional supports
  3. Districts instilled visions that focused on student learning and guided instructional improvement
  4. Districts made decisions based on data, not instinct
  5. Districts adopted new approaches to professional development that involved a coherent and district-organized set of strategies to improve instruction
  6. Districts redefined leadership roles
  7. Districts committed to sustaining reform over the long haul

In addition to the executive summary above, this Executive Summary from "Buried Treasure - Developing a Management Guide From Mountains of School Data" by the Center on Reinventing Public Education appears to hold some promising directions in terms of the process for creating measurable indicators.

Here is another resource for exploring the dimensions of Understanding Educational Equity and Excellence, At Scale. Here is 2010 study on school funding and equity.

The dual and desirable educational goals of student equity and student excellence have often been in a serious struggle for scarce resources. This article explores the need to nurture the gifted minority in their pursuit of excellence.

Across the Bay, San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia has developed a draft Strategic Plan that incorporates a Balance Scorecard for improving equity. In Oakland, they published their 2008/09 strategic objectives titled: Expect Success. which led to fourteen task forces working in 2010/11 school year to create a strategic plan to create full service community learning environment to address inequities. In Castro Valley they have adopted an equity policy along with San Jose which has an equity policy and an accompanying administrative regulation. San Leandro has done their equity work.

Perhaps the best place to start is having a conversation. To assist you in starting a conversation on equity, evaluate the following: The National Equity Project, EdEquity and Glenn Singleton, author of Courageous Conversations.About Race.

A majority of the America public believe parental involvement is critical in achieving academic excellence. The Harvard Family Research Project published a paper on the broader policy implications of family involvement including its impact on excellence with equity.

As the implementation of Common Core began in 2014, questions about the impact on equity were raised.

It is important to keep in mind a phrase attributed to Adam Urbansky of the Teacher Union Reform Network: Excellence without equity is nothing more than privilege; equity without excellence is nothing more than tokenism.

By Charles V. Willie

Education has a dual function of enhancing individuals and strengthening communities. An important function of the community is to support and sustain people. We cannot advance the development and learning of knowledge by dealing with the individual only. We must also pay attention to collectivities such as school communities and to their organizational effects on individuals.

To help us understand interaction between students and schools, we must develop conceptual approaches that will help integrate our observations and experiences. Complementarity is the major concept that has helped me to understand this interaction. The student is a person and the school is a group. All individuals depend on groups and other collectivities for their survival. There is no evidence that individuals can grow and prosper without help from groups. And there is no evidence that groups can exist and function without the presence of individuals. Thus, the individual and the group are complementary(2) . One without the other is incomplete.

In other words, instead of sorting out and segregating individuals by race, gender, socioeconomic status, and other cultural characteristics, we, in education, should be discovering creative ways of putting together different people with different talents, intelligences, and experiences so that one can do for another what the other cannot do for his- or herself.

Education, therefore, should focus neither on cultivating excellence at the expense of equity nor on cultivating equity at the expense of excellence. In a well-ordered society, the goal of education is to seek both excellence and equity because they are complementary. One without the other is incomplete.

Charles V. Willie is the Charles William Eliot Professor of Education, emeritus, at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.