American education is in a critical moment, one of urgency and opportunity. As we enter our third school year in a far-reaching global pandemic, we are more aware than ever of the longstanding inequities in student access to challenging, engaging and supportive learning experiences.
The pandemic forced many changes to how we do school and has taught us that innovation and transformation are not only possible, but essential for ensuring that every student of every race, ethnicity, gender identity, ability, and income level has access to inclusive, rigorous, and relevant learning experiences. So how can we leverage this momentum? How can we push forward the approaches that have grown from educators’ response to the pandemic and the deeper awareness of inequities and racial injustices?
In our Portrait of a Culturally Responsive School System, we offer a roadmap for intentionally building school systems that ensure children of every race, ethnicity, language or other characteristics of their identity, have what they need to achieve academic, social, and emotional success. Supported by research showing that equity-focused leadership promotes more equitable outcomes for students, the Portrait offers a broadened definition of school in these times and can be used as a baseline to create aspirational goals, an accountability tool to assess progress against goals, and a celebration to show quick wins.
This tool is comprised of more than 150 reflection questions and sample indicators and is designed to consciously disrupt systemic racism and decenter dominant culture. The Portrait encourages leaders to envision a culturally responsive school system by thinking beyond physical school walls and standardized exams, creating an educational system in which learners think critically and challenge inequitable structures to bring about lasting change.