Focusing on educational equity requires continuous learning
As CSBA continues to advocate for Full and Fair Funding of California’s public schools, it recognizes that in order to close opportunity gaps, the necessary funding must be coupled with a continued focus on equity. Governance teams play an important role in leading for educational equity. Opportunity gaps persist around the state and nation, as evident in quantitative and qualitative data. Governance teams should act with a sense of urgency — the longer the wait, the more students will be deprived of the opportunity to meet their potential. It is for this reason that CSBA has expanded its trainings and resources to focus on how board members can lead with educational equity in mind.

As part of this work, CSBA established an Equity Network in 2018 for school board members, funded through a grant from the Stuart Foundation. This network is a platform for participants to collaborate, build capacity and inform decisions that lead to improved opportunities and outcomes for underserved students. In April 2019, the first cohort of 20 board members, representing 10 districts, concluded its year-long series of in-person and virtual meetings — read more about the work of this group in the fall issue of California Schools magazine. This August, a new cohort of participants convened to continue these important conversations. Meanwhile, participants from the first year continue with support activities to implement their equity action plans.

The knowledge explored and gained through the network has informed many aspects of CSBA’s work, including newsletter and magazine articles, governance briefs, Annual Education Conference workshops, a sample equity policy and other services and products that members will continue to see in the future.

What boards can do to focus on educational equity
What CSBA has learned from the Equity Network is that educational equity requires leaders who are open to challenging their assumptions about what is possible and who are committed to continuous learning — both about themselves and about effective strategies that can dismantle inequity.

Board members can focus on educational equity now by taking the following steps:

  • Define educational equity. Educational equity must be defined, with terms understood among all members of a governance team, staff and stakeholders. Critical to any definition is an understanding that equality and equity are not the same. As Dr. Jeff Duncan Andrade said, “Equity is about giving students what they need when they need it.”
  • Adopt an equity policy. A strong equity policy addresses practices across the district that have perpetuated opportunity gaps (e.g., Advanced Placement/honors course availability, graduation requirements, course placement, enrollment boundaries and hiring practices). CSBA offers a sample board policy on equity (BP 0415 – Equity) that is available to subscribers to CSBA’s GAMUT Policy service and is temporarily available
    to all CSBA members at bit.ly/2IvAnEB.
  • Develop an equity action plan. Passing a policy alone will not create change. The actions taken to support such a policy are just as important. An equity action plan can help a governance team set clear goals for closing opportunity gaps and provide systemic guidance for assessment, implementation of actions and monitoring of impact for targeted student groups. Such plans should be considered during the Local Control and Accountability Plan development process and either be part of the LCAP or included as a separate supporting document.
  • Commit to continuous learning. Becoming a champion for equity requires a commitment to continuous learning and challenging one’s own assumptions. It is for this reason that CSBA encourages board members to explore resources and learning opportunities focused on educational equity. For example, attendees at this year’s Annual Education Conference will be able to select from several workshops focused on strategies to close opportunity gaps, including a double session titled “Equity, Access, and Opportunity: Governance with an Equity Lens,” led by CSBA Equity Network consultants.

There is not a single strategy or action that a board member or governance team can take in order to “achieve” equity. However, when it comes to the persistent opportunity gaps in our public education system, not taking steps to address them is tantamount to supporting them. The question board members should ask themselves every day is: what can I do within my role to address inequity and close opportunity gaps in my county, district, schools and community?