By Carissa Moffat Miller
A year ago, state chiefs came together with the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program as well as educators, advocates, and civil rights leaders to publish Leading for Equity: Opportunities for State Education Chiefs, a set of actions states could take to move the needle on equity. Since then, I’m proud to see that state education leaders have made notable progress against these actions.
The Leading for Equity report outlines 10 commitments that have since become the foundation for our work moving forward at CCSSO. They shaped our new strategic plan and are the focus of many of our conversations and all of work.
In November each year, CCSSO host its Annual Policy Forum with our state members. Last November, we decided to check in with state chiefs on the progress they were making against these commitments and any support CCSSO might provide in further advancing the commitments.
To say I was impressed would be an understatement. When we gathered chiefs in November, we heard example after example of how they are making equity part of their strategic plans, imbedding it in internal work of the agency, and in relationships forged all to increase educational equity.
In Wisconsin, Superintendent Tony Evers not only led the charge to create the Leading for Equity report, he also has made significant progress within his state. One way Wisconsin is doing this is within its own agency, where they provide training for all employees to ensure they are prepared and equipped to lead proactive conversations about race and outcomes for students.
In Minnesota, Commissioner Brenda Cassellius and her team reworked how they are spending Title II federal funding to create an equity specialist position at the state agency who is dedicated to supporting classroom teachers on equity issues.
In Mississippi, under Superintendent Carey Wright’s leadership, the state is offering its professional development opportunities to all early childhood providers – whether they are public, private, or Head Start. This is one way the state is making sure all children are receiving high-quality early childhood education before they arrive in Kindergarten.
In Oklahoma, Superintendent Joy Hofmeister has built new relationships and trust with American Indian Tribal leaders across the state. These ongoing conversations have helped shape the state’s plan for the Every Students Succeed Act and have a direct impact on Native student achievement.
These are real, meaningful promising practices that are making a difference for kids. And there are many more – some of which we have detailed in a new report, States Leading for Equity: Promising Practices to Advance the Equity Commitments, jointly published with our partners at the Aspen Institute Education & Society Program and America’s Promise Alliance.
Achieving educational equity is a national imperative, and state chiefs know they can’t do it alone. It takes leadership from the state, but it also takes a broad effort from all stakeholders and community members to ensure every child has access to the right educational resources at the right moment in their education – across race, gender, ethnicity, language, disability, sexual orientation, family background or family income.
We know this journey will be long, and the inequities we face in education cannot be solved in a matter of one year. But these promising practices and the level of commitment from our state chiefs, our partners, our stakeholders, advocates, teachers, and state policymakers shows we are on the right path.
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