To achieve cultural and racial equity and ensure educational opportunities for all learners, states, districts, and schools must identify and address systemwide inequities and their root causes.

This Spotlight highlights three strategies for supporting cultural and racial equity at a systems level and offers resources to inform equity initiatives.

NCSI TLC SeriesElevate equity in opportunity and achievement for students with disabilities or who may have disabilities and who are English Learners. 

The National Center for Systemic Improvement (NCSI) at WestEd is committed to helping state agencies and communities understand the intersection of language, culture, and disability in education to resolve inequities that disadvantage students designated as English Learners with disabilities or those who educators may identify as needing special education services.

NCSI’s 2022 Thought Leaders Conversation Series—Pursuing Equity at the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Disability—aims to help educators address this issue. The series explores the following:

  • How historical and current beliefs about language, culture, and disability affect policies and practices that can empower or inhibit the success of students, families, and communities
  • How equity-informed educators can use science to explore family, community, and educator perspectives for improving services and outcomes for English Learners with disabilities
  • Ways coordination and collaboration—including family and community voice, knowledge, and wisdom—across general education, special education, and ESOL/ESL departments can benefit students, families, and communities
  • Ways that educators can use qualitative and quantitative data meaningfully to understand issues and promote improvement and multilingual access for English Learners with disabilities
  • How research can inform and be informed by practice that supports culturally and linguistically responsive planning by building on the entirety of students’ cultural and linguistic repertoires for instruction, assessment, and other services for students who are English Learners with disabilities

Learn more about NCSI’s 2022 Thought Leaders Conversation Series: Pursuing Equity at the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Disability.

Disrupt disproportionality or the over-identification of certain groups of students—particularly Black students and other students of color—for special education services and disciplinary action.

This episode of the General Soup podcast focuses on a critical responsibility and priority of state general supervision systems—disrupting disproportionality or the over-identification of certain groups of students, particularly Black students and other students of color, for special education services and disciplinary action.

What are the root causes of disproportionality? How can state education agencies support schools and districts to address it? What are the limits of approaching disproportionality as solely a compliance issue rather than recognizing it as evidence of a need for full-scale systems transformation? How do students think about and define disproportionality, and what might their framing offer us in terms of solutions? What role can Culturally Responsive and Sustaining Education play in disrupting disproportionality? How can states leverage their general supervision systems to promote equitable opportunities and outcomes for all students?

Join hosts Susan Hayes and Sara Doutre for a rich and important conversation about these questions and more with two national experts in disproportionality and equity, David Lopez and John Jacobs. David and John also share some helpful resources for anyone who wants to dig deeper into these topics.

Listen to the episode.

Dr. Niki SandovalImplement practices that contribute to equitable outcomes for Indigenous students.

Niki Sandoval, Senior Strategic Development Manager at WestEd, has spent her career addressing inequity in education. In this Equity in Focus Q&A, she shares three practices that can contribute to equitable outcomes for Indigenous students. Read an excerpt:

With tribal family and community members, take an honest look at Native American student outcome data. Academic achievement, attendance, graduation, and disciplinary referral data tell an important part of the story about how Native students are experiencing school. For example, in 2019, 7.2 percent of American Indian students in California were suspended at least once compared with 2.9 percent of their White peers. Native American students experience persistent disparities in academic outcomes compared with other student groups. One example is evidenced by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading scale scores for 4th-grade American Indian students, which illustrate a pervasive gap from 1994 through 2017. High school graduation rates for American Indian students, at 74 percent, remain the lowest of any other ethnic group in the United States.

These facts are a source of anger, frustration, and deep sadness for Native students, families, and community members. Reviewing student outcomes with tribal, family, and school leaders helps us interpret the data within a fuller context, identify the root causes, and problem-solve together.

Read the full Q&A with Dr. Niki Sandoval.

How WestEd Can Help

Systemic Equity Review: Identifying and Addressing Inequities and Their Root Causes

WestEd works to build the capacity of state and local agencies (SEAs and LEAs) and other education organizations to implement culturally responsive data literacy that centers the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other students of color, as well as students whose identities are intersectional.

This work is foundational to elevating the voices, expertise, needs, and aspirations of those most impacted by—and therefore knowledgeable about—education inequities.

To ensure these essential perspectives are at the heart of your strategic planning efforts, we leverage culturally responsive data inquiry methods to evaluate systemic policies, practices, and procedures and the underlying beliefs they reflect.

Drawing on our national expertise in evidence-based practices, deep relationships in the field, and our own lived experiences as education professionals, we guide you through a customized Systemic Review Process to determine opportunities for sustainably advancing cultural responsiveness and equity.

Learn more about the Systemic Equity Review service.

Read and Sign Up to Receive the WestEd E-Bulletin

Subscribe to and read the WestEd E-Bulletin. The latest issue offers resources on creating cultural and racial equity to support learning recovery.

Topics include:

  • Promoting Equitable Outcomes for Indigenous Students
  • Equity at the Intersection of Language, Culture, and Disability
  • Addressing Inequities in Special Education and School Discipline
  • Creating and Sustaining High-Quality Equity Initiatives
  • Managing Stereotype Threat Through Self-Affirmation
  • Working Respectfully with Indigenous Communities
  • Creating Culturally Affirming Spaces Webinar Series
  • Toward Instructional Equity and Respect for Diversity
  • Elevating Student Voice, Agency, and Co-Creation

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