Academy for Social-Emotional Learning in Schools

Educational Equity



How Education Research Aims to Tackle Racism

Summary:  This article reports on three upcoming studies focusing on the issue of systemic racism in American education.  The three journals will cover different aspects of this issue including outcomes, attitudes, and environments and how students can learn to resist systemic racism.

Source:  Matt Zalaznick, District Administration, September 18, 2020



When Schools Reopen, Let’s End Racism, Unconscious Bias in the Classroom | Opinion

by Maurice J. Elias and Larry Leverett

It is beyond dispute that unconscious bias and overt racism remain embedded in the U.S. education system. It is equally clear that healing must begin from within. Recent statements by millions of Americans, in favor of the Black Lives Matter movement and its message, demonstrate a nationwide shift in hearts and minds and a readiness to challenge these historical disparities.

As we contemplate how to reopen our schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we face an urgent and undeniable opportunity to rid our school systems of the racist barriers that prevent all students from reaching their potential. We cannot wait for the “right” moment until things “settle down” or until certain folks are “ready.” While fighting a physical virus and understanding that safety for students and staff will be the paramount issue this fall, we must take this opportunity to root out a more insidious spiritual virus, one that has infected our values and institutions for centuries.To do this, we must take the following bold steps.

These steps represent a process and not a checkbox. They represent a dramatic change in how we educate all of our students.

First, schools must commit to supporting the social and emotional wellness of students, teachers and families, both as part of the pandemic recovery and as the basis for establishing equity and social justice in our education systems.

They should adopt the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for the United States’ guidance through which schools can help children and adults understand and manage stress. And they must commit to building an atmosphere of welcome, caring and love for all students.

Though teachers cannot remove all effects of racism any more than they can cure the pandemic, and though they cannot change the disproportional damage that COVID-19 inflicts on communities of color, they can start the process of recovery with a commitment to ensuring equity in students’ opportunities to thrive.

Next, schools should examine their practices and outcomes to seek out areas of conscious or unconscious bias or other factors that interfere with the success of students of color, or other historically marginalized groups of students. Administrators, teachers and staff must develop clear guidelines for individual and collective improvement. [This] means engaging the school community in ongoing conversations, self-reflections and professional development to build a shared commitment to ensuring an equity of opportunities and supports for all students.

This self-reflection should be ongoing and should include examinations of all aspects of learning to ensure the best is being done for all subgroups of students, by all subgroups of staff. It should include not just teachers but all adults working with and in schools and must be reflected in performance standards and accountability.

Teachers, staff and administrators who feel this is too much of a burden can be shown the exit door from the education system. Our children have waited too long for adults to demonstrate the will to fully educate each child without regard to race, zip code and socioeconomic status. They must wait no longer.

Finally, schools must engage with their communities to address inequities that exist beyond the school walls. They must build community-wide resources to help students resolve the traumatic impacts of the dual pandemics of racism and COVID-19. They should work with communities to organize mental health resources that are accessible equally to all students, and ensure an appropriate number of school counselors, psychologists and social workers are available at each school.

Such services are currently triggered by a diagnosable difficulty such as anxiety, suicidality, learning or communication problems but by the time these issues come to light, the affected student has suffered the loss of learning time and damaged relationships. Many students, who are affected daily by race-related trauma, need access to mental health resources both inside and outside the school before their problems worsen.
As schools reopen this fall, we must take advantage of the opportunity to set a new path for current and future generations of educators, students, parents, politicians and citizens. It will be our defining legacy.

Maurice J. Elias is a professor of psychology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick and directs the Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab.

Larry Leverett is a retired teacher, former New Jersey assistant commissioner of education and former superintendent of the Plainfield Public Schools.

Originally published by on September 2, 2020



Lessons in Leadership: Principal Prioritizes Equity, Preparing Students for World Beyond West Philadelphia

Summary:  This is an interview with Richard Gordon, a high school principal in West Philadelphia, who has won many accolades for his leadership.  He comments on the importance of community partnerships and involvement in helping schools meet the needs of its students. He goes on to comment on his focus on equity and how it is preparing students for life beyond schooling.

Source:  Roger Riddell, Education DIVE, August 25, 2020



Reunite, Renew, and Thrive: Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Roadmap for Reopening School

Summary:  This document from CASEL provides a road map with suggested steps and activities to help schools navigate their way back to school in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic.  There are four suggested critical practices each with a set of steps for reopening schools.

Source:  CASEL, July 2020.



Educators Get Creative To Serve Students With Disabilities

Summary:  This article talks about the difficulties associated with providing appropriate services to special needs students while engaged in distance learning.  Several examples are given where teachers offer some solutions to this problem.

Source:  Elissa Nadworney, NPR, April 15, 2020



Guidance for Special Education Services in Considering the Risk of COVID-19

Summary:  This is a fact sheet distributed by the US Department of Education providing guidance to schools and districts in planning for and implementing online learning for special needs students.  While there are specific challenges in meeting the educational needs of these students in an online environment, the USDOE supports the notion that schools can provide online instruction to these students.

Source:  Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, USDOE, March 21. 2020



The Starts and Stumbles of Restorative Justice in Education: Where Do We Go from Here?

Summary:  This policy brief reviews the current state of implementation of Restorative Justice In Education (RJE) and makes several recommendations for schools, researchers, and policy makers.  The authors focus on the importance of a principle-based, comprehensive, and equity-based approach, consideration for the development of contextually sensitive, strategic, and long-term implementation plans and practices, and that follow-up research examines change as a result of the program over a three to five year period of time.

Source:  Gregory, A., & Evans, K.R. (2020). The Starts and Stumbles of Restorative Justice in Education: Where Do We Go from Here? Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center.



Principals to Get Specialized Training to Tackle Racial Inequities in Their Schools

Summary:  This article reports on a program in the Los Angeles Unified School District to train principals to root out racial inequities and biases in their schools.  The program will begin with six months of Saturday sessions working with principals to help them identify and address racial disparities in their schools.

Source:  Denisa R. Superville, Education Week, November 5, 2019



New Jersey, Illinois Among Latest to Mandate LGBTQIA Curriculum

Summary: This article reports that New Jersey and Illinois have now mandated the teaching of an LGBTQIA Curriculum in the public schools.  Schools are seeking resources and looking at curriculum gaps in order to meet this mandate.

Source:  Shawna De La Rosa, Education DIVE, November 13, 2019



Cultivating Socially Aware Classrooms Starts with Teachers’ Self-reflection

Summary:  It is important for teachers to reflect on their own views as they strive to build an inclusive classroom environment.  They should put themselves in the students’ place in order to gain a perspective on how it feels to be in their class.

Source:  Shawna De La Rosa, Education DIVE, September 12, 2019