Equity and Inclusivity
Educational leaders strive for equity of access to high-quality global learning opportunities for all students. This includes committing to deep, ongoing integration of principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their leadership and organizational infrastructure; ensuring that every student has equitable access to high-quality coursework, programs, and resources that emphasize global competence; and seeking to hire and manage a diverse staff dedicated to preparing each and every student—regardless of academic ability, disability status, language proficiency, or personal background—for life, work, and citizenship in a global society.
Educational leaders also cultivate an inclusive, caring, and supportive school community that values the cultural and linguistic diversity of each student. This requires supporting staff to be reflective and action-oriented about building a culture that includes, cares for, and supports the unique needs of each student and their family; creating an environment that welcomes and accommodates students, families, and staff from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds; utilizing the diversity of students, families, and staff as learning assets throughout classroom and schoolwide programming; and establishing an ethos of tolerance and civility so that all students, families, and staff feel safe expressing personal opinions, beliefs, and perspectives, including open dialogues when intolerance or prejudice occurs.
This tenet recognizes the impact of the diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds of students and the local community on teaching global competence. Global learning begins right at home with an understanding of oneself, community, and nation to better realize personal and local connections to the broader world. As one leader articulated in a focus group, “Many of the strong learning can and should take place right at home, because that is often where the barriers to empathy and understanding may be strongest.” In addition, educational leaders include “dominant” and “nondominant” cultures in their understanding of diversity and view the uniqueness of each child as an asset. Each student and staff member contributes to the plurality of perspectives, experiences, and cultures within a classroom, school, and community, regardless of whether someone just immigrated or is a fifth-generation immigrant. They also recognize, accommodate, and celebrate the differences that exist within and across subgroups. Finally, leaders understand that equity is not the same as equality (Mann, 2014). Where equality suggests the same for all, equity recognizes that some students need more resources and supports to arrive at the same finish line as their peers. For example, a school may need to provide programs and staff training to targets recently arrived immigrant students that other students would not receive.
Tenet in Action
Educational leaders strive for equity of access to high-quality global learning opportunities for each student and cultivate an inclusive, caring, and supportive school community that values the cultural and linguistic diversity of each student. Globally competent educational leaders:
Commit themselves to deep, ongoing integration of principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their leadership and organizational infrastructure
Help staff to be reflective and action-oriented about building a culture that includes, cares for, and supports the unique needs of each student and their families
Create an environment that welcomes and accommodates students, families, and staff from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and utilize the diversity of students, families, and staff as learning assets throughout classroom and schoolwide programming
Establish an ethos of tolerance and civility so that all students, families, and staff feel safe expressing personal opinions, beliefs, and perspectives, and engaging in dialogue when instances of intolerance or prejudice occur
Ensure that every student has equitable access to high-quality coursework, programs, and resources that emphasize global competence
Seek to hire and manage a diverse staff committed to preparing each student for life, work, and citizenship in a global society
Suggested Activities: Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
Committing to deep, ongoing integration of principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Mr. Christopher Huff, Principal, Waverly High School, Lansing, MI
Waverly High School has one of the most diverse student bodies in Michigan, yet this hadn’t always been the case. Mr. Huff explains, “20, 15, even 10 years ago our students didn’t look like this. With that change came a lot of negative imagery around our community. We would hear community members who had spent their whole lives here say, ‘Waverly’s changing’ in a negative way. We wanted to spin ‘Waverly is a diverse place’ positively.” As principal, Mr. Huff committed himself to putting the diverse student demographics on a pedestal, so that when people say, “Waverly’s changed,” it has the positive connotation of “a diverse place where people learn about different cultures and different language.” Mr. Huff shares, “We made a conscious decision to flip diversity to be a point of pride and a point of honor. Schools are ranked by test scores, but there’s no measurement for having a diverse school experience. We don’t want to be judged solely on one day of testing, so we decided to highlight our diversity and multicultural programs. We offer a valuable, culturally rich experience when you come to school here.”
Mr. Huff believes that the school’s focus on equity and inclusivity has led to a lot of harmony among students and a lack of bullying based on race, religion, ethnicity, or sexual preference. “Students see the value and take pride in going to a school like this,” he says. “There’s no way to quantify that this is what our school is about. It’s more than a feeling of test scores and attendance, though it is also true that those have been on the rise the past few years, too. The atmosphere has become more harmonious. Thirty to forty percent of our kids are school choice. Because diversity and differences are valued at our school, this helps us absorb and acclimate new students who didn’t come here the year before.” Creating an environment that welcomes and accommodates students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Dr. Aimee Fearing, Principal, Wellstone International High School, Minneapolis, MN
All of Dr. Fearing’s students are immigrants or refugees who qualify for English language learner services. About 55 percent speak East African languages, 35 percent speak Spanish, and the other 10 percent are proficient in a range of languages. Dr. Fearing does not assume that because her students are from other countries that they have a high level of global awareness. She explains, “Many people will think that because our kids are from all over, of course they understand the world. But that’s not the case. Most students are coming from homogenous cultures, and often with a jaded perspective. It’s not unusual for them to have not seen someone of a different race or have had to interact with someone from a different religion. Then they come to our school, and they are placed in a classroom with a lot of heterogeneity. Many who have come from a survival environment haven’t had the time or the need to look elsewhere. It’s a stretch to have them look at things from a different lens, especially a lens that they think is biased.”
Dr. Fearing leads her staff to scaffold global learning to accommodate her students’ needs. The school focuses on placing students on the pathway of social-emotional learning and cultural understanding so that they can recognize their own biases and identify biases in others. Students first garner an understanding of themselves and their relationships with others in the building, before moving towards the global piece by examining issues and events external to the school: their local neighborhood, city, state, and country. She elaborates, “It takes a long time to have students examine their sphere of influence and understand who they are. At the same time, this is the time of life when many adolescents are developing identity, so it takes on a whole new meaning for them to realize they are a part of something larger than themselves. It’s important for us as a staff to affirm that our students are really just starting this global competence journey, and when they graduate they might not yet be at this superb place. But when they run for state office we can say we’ve made a difference.” Establishing an ethos of tolerance and civility so that all students, family, and staff feel safe to express their opinions and beliefs and engage in dialogue.
Mr. Balga has provided bimonthly, culturally responsive training for the teachers at Harris Road Middle School on how to approach various cultures and confront cultural biases. Training activities have focused on staff unpacking their personal beliefs; examining different ways to approach students of different races, religions, and creeds; and acknowledging students’ identities (rather than being the teacher who says, “I don’t see race”). Staff have also attempted to document what they know about students outside of school, which prompted some teachers to realize that they needed to build better relationships with students. As Mr. Balga emphasizes, “Relationships are so key. You have to know students and take an interest in them. If you build that relationship, they will work for you because you show that you care.”
Books and Articles
Davis M. (2015, October 29 updated). “Restorative Justice: Resources for Schools.” Edutopia.
Smith, D., Frey, N., Pumpian, I., & Fisher, D. (2017). Building equity: Policies and practices to empower all learners. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2017). A guide for ensuring equity and inclusion in education. Paris, France: Author.
District of Columbia Public Schools Seal of Biliteracy Program. Recognizes the commitment of students who persevere in language education to achieve high levels of proficiency and highlights the rich linguistic and cultural expertise of the district’s many international and immigrant students.
Facing History and Ourselves. Engages students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism to promote a more humane and informed citizenry.
Internationals Network for Public Schools. Supports schools in providing high-quality public education for recently arrived immigrants, sharing proven best practices, and influencing policy for English language learners on a national scale.
Global Fluency Institute. Trainings provide professional development that equip educators with the skills to communicate with, understand, and leverage cultural diversity.
National Equity Project. Designs and provides professional learning experiences for educators and other leaders to support them in transforming their systems to dramatically improve educational experiences, outcomes, and life options for students and families who have been historically underserved by their schools and districts.