Summit school board joins district leadership for equity training

Summit High School is pictured March 18, 2021. District leadership had its first of four equity training sessions with the Colorado Education Initiative at the Thursday, Jan. 13, school board meeting.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

The Colorado Education Initiative led Summit School District officials and the school board in an equity training Thursday, Jan. 13, with the group walking away with a better idea of where it wants the district to be in its equity work a year from now.

The Education Initiative, which also led the development of the district’s strategic plan, is a Denver-based nonprofit serving about 50 school districts in Colorado to accelerate educational improvement and innovation.

The training was the first of four parts for the district’s Every Child Team, which is made up of about 30 people, including principals and assistant principals as well as district and instructional leadership teams. Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford said someone presented the idea of getting the board involved with the training so everyone can have a common knowledge and understanding of equity, and the board was all for it. Crawford said the training is a key opportunity for the district to calibrate its thinking around equity.

Alex Carter, vice president of implementation with the Colorado Education Initiative, led the training, which explained that most equity practices are about changing habits and redesigning systems. His organization defines equity in education as “raising the achievement of all students while narrowing the gaps between the highest- and lowest-performing students, and eliminating predictability and disproportionality of which student groups occupy the highest and lowest achievement categories.”

Carter also explained the idea that design is intentional, and systems are designed to produce the outcomes they get. When designing for equity, he said participants must notice and take the time to disrupt inequities, prioritize making time for equity work, accept help from and work with students and families, and leverage existing work.

“We believe that design is intentional, and if you’re designing for equity, these are behaviors that you commit to,” Carter said.

Carter also said it’s important to focus on what equity means on a personal, local and immediate level, because it’s different everywhere you go, and this work is about Summit School District. He said that for leaders, equity needs to start on a personal level by asking themselves why they are engaging in this work and why they are making these changes in their work and life.

After participating in a few activities reflecting on their own identities, district leadership also reflected on their equity narratives, which are meant to reflect what the “average client” would say about the person as an equity leader.

To conclude the training, everyone was split into breakout rooms where they were tasked with creating an aspirational equity narrative for Summit School District as a whole, reflecting on what they hope students will say about the district come January 2023.

Carter asked everyone to share their narratives and highlighted common themes, including valuing all perspectives, helping all students thrive and succeed, removing barriers, increasing access, developing sustainable systems, adapting to make sure actions meet intentions, building relationships and honoring every student’s cultural and personal identity.

Board President Kate Hudnut said the training was a valuable experience, and she thinks the Education Initiative has helped keep the conversation around equity moving forward.

“The more that we can all do as much as possible to have a similar understanding of where we are as a district and how important this work is for our students — I value that,” Hudnut said.

The Every Child Team has three additional training sessions with the Education Initiative around equity, with the next one scheduled for Feb. 24.

“It is refreshing to see a school district that passed a strategic plan and then got right into doing the work,” Carter said. “I hope that you’re very proud of yourselves, that in the most challenging year in the history of public education in America, you guys are actually continuing to commit to continuous improvement and getting better every day.”

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