Advocating for Social Justice: Developing an Equity Plan A Collaborative Student Engagement Project

Author: Margaret Harris Ed.D., Department of Educational Leadership

Cultivating and Inspiring Equity
As long as one people sit on another and are death to their cry, so long understanding and peace elude all of us. (Chinua Achebe)

I. The Purpose

The purpose of this project is to provide students with a social justice dilemma intended to facilitate and raise awareness of a current critical issue in our schools, communities, county, or state. Community leaders cannot promote excellence and claim to be advocates of social justice if they tolerate cultures that accept and explain the marginalization of a disproportionate number of people, in which success, in our society, eludes them.

Social justice requires active work on the part of leaders to change, the environmental circumstances that have a destructive impact on shaping the academic, emotional, and social development of children. When developing your equity plan, a basic element to keep in the forefront of your analysis and discussion is that the deliberate process of intervention of social justice requires one to resist discrimination and inequity (Marshall & Oliva, 2010). Of particular concern are those marginalized people who have been “written off” because of their race/ethnicity, gender, social class, disability, language, and sexual orientation.

The requirements of this social justice perspective do not merely imply assessing needs and providing services in order to mainstream marginalized populations with dictated services and program content. Rather it means building participatory, equitable, and just relationships to create trusting environments with community members. Thus, social justice perspective calls for community leaders to do the research to create a set of core beliefs and organizational characteristics that emphasize the high levels of engagement, particularly from those who have been marginalized in our communities and/or society (Marshall & Oliva, 2010).

II. Overview of the Process

Positioning

As a leader for Social Justice, define your responsibility for creating and implementing a plan to stop the disparity between students from widening. You may also want to include how you have evolved as a leader for social justice, and include how your beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, and/or practices have changed or evolved. Thus, this section serves as a “mini” biographical sketch in order to provide the reader with a glimpse into your development as a bold, social, and responsible leader.

Data Analysis

Once inequities are identified, you will move into the phase of developing an Equity Action Plan for implementation. However, the first step is to make sense of an uncertain situation. To do so requires you to gather various data sources, disaggregate and analyze the data to help set the problem or issue of inequity you will be focusing on. The following steps will assist you in understanding, and using the data to strengthen your stance.

The following steps may assist you in understanding, and using the data to strengthen your stance.

  1. Study, analyze, and describe 2-4 sources of student data. Be sure to include all data, formal and informal, that provides you with the basis of defining the problem you have identified as important to you. Develop tables and/or figures to display the data, as well as the data comparisons.
  2. Identify issues and questions that emerge from the above data
  3. Interrogate issues (with probing questions) to provide a deeper analysis of the data.
  4. Determine what additional information is needed to further investigate the equity issues that have emerged?
    • What patterns have emerged?
    • What further questions have emerged?
    • Include findings from an Equity Audit Tool that helps to support, compliment, or contradict your findings from the data.
  5. Interrogate issue, with probing questions, to provide a deeper analysis:
    • What additional information is needed to further investigate the equity issues that have emerged?
    • What patterns have emerged?
    • What further questions have emerged?

Collaboration

The second step provides you with additional support as to the nature and/or the seriousness of issue(s) of equity in your community, county, or state.

  1. To gain a deeper perspective of the data and/or the equity issue(s) that have emerged, with whom can you collaborate in order to gain a better understanding of the issue(s)?
    • Who are the "key stakeholders" (specific ethnic group, community members, business community, politicians, etc.)?
    • Organize your data findings and develop questions to ask your identified key stakeholders. Not only think about what questions will you pose to which stakeholder and why, but think about how you will share, with them, your data findings and questions that have emerged from your analysis.
  2. What additional insights have you gained as a result of your collaboration?
    • What are the established practices that have evolved which contribute to the issue(s) of equity or inequities?
    • What assumptions are being made about your targeted student group?
    • What other perspectives can you bring?
    • How would school critics view this plan?

Actions

The third step:

  1. After narrowing your area of focus for your Equity Plan, identify the implicit assumptions (beliefs and attitudes) and explicit assumptions (behaviors) of people who have contributed to the identified inequity, and how these assumptions have framed practices.
  2. Identify ways to maximize social justice and equity solutions to the dilemma. Explain how might the potential actions offer increased opportunities for fairness and justice.

Resources

The fourth step: Resources are not just fiscal in nature.

  1. What available resources could be utilized to address the issue(s) of inequity you have identified?
  2. What additional resources would compliment the current support systems?
  3. What are the trends, and or policies that could both limit or support addressing the inequity?

Recommendations

Finally, select a preferred option(s) that identifies what actions should be taken.

  1. Describe and explain each recommendation. Consider the following guiding questions:
    • State or restate the central problem
    • Explain why you have chosen this recommendation?
    • Explain why this recommendation is the best fit for reducing, if not eliminating the inequity.
    • What does the literature (or research) say about the inequity or about solutions and your chosen solution?
    • How does this recommendation relate to your data analysis?
    • How will this recommendation address the basic equity issue you have identified?
    • Who will be involved?
    • What professional development or re-training is required?
      • How will you go about implementing it?
    • What is the anticipated outcome?
    • Include a summation of your data analysis and your findings from an Equity Audit Tool to support your recommendation.
    • Include how your Equity Plan is in alignment with policies, rules, laws, or mandates
    • Identify issues and questions that might emerge regarding your recommendation.
  2. If you have more than one recommendation, prioritize your recommendations considering possible budget cuts and other possible obstacles for full implementation.
  3. Interrogate issues (with probing questions) and provide a deeper analysis:
    • What additional information is needed to further investigate the equity issues that have emerged?
    • What patterns have emerged?
    • What further questions have emerged?

III. The Process

Individual and Collaborative Group Activities:

The instructor must structure the following activities. However, these activities can be tailored for face-to-face sessions, hybrid classes, or on-line classes.

Prior, to our class discussion, each individual student is required to collect 2-3 sources of data from one of the assigned areas of interest. Peruse the data content and results before class in order to ensure your participation in the discussion.

Part 1: Individual Activity

  1. Review your data
    • What trends are apparent?
    • What concerns have surfaced? Who are most affected?
  2. Prioritize your observations/concerns/people /group(s)

Part 2: Class Discussion

  1. What criteria did you use to collect your individual data?
  2. What did you have to do to obtain the data you needed or requested?
  3. What are the forms of data you were able to collect?
    • Reports
    • Assessments
    • Artifacts
    • Statistical reports
    • Improvement Plan
    • Other
  4. Share your individual findings and questions that have surfaced.

Part 3: Creating Collaborative Groups

  1. Form groups according to your focus area that emerged from your data (see Part 2 above).
  2. Using your group’s combined data, discuss the main areas of concern and challenges that has emerged from your collective data, in your group’s focus area
  3. "Dig" further into the data to tease out additional information the data reveals.
    • Does the data of your focus group’s collective examination differ across content areas, ethnicities, gender, socio-economics, etc., or is there one area that affects a disproportionate, or marginalized group?
    • Discuss the marginalized group that has emerged.
  4. Prioritize concerns, trends, and outcomes

Part 4: Group Activity:

  1. Form groups of 4-5 students based on specific focus area
  2. Select a group chairperson
  3. Achieve consensus on a single area of focus
    • Is the problem keeping us from moving forward a social justice agenda?
    • Would solving this problem build on existing momentum in the organization, city, county, or state?
    • Will success lead to significant and systemic change?
    • Would solving this problem support the vision/mission of the organization, community, county, state, etc.?
    • Would solving create a positive "ripple effect"?
  4. Explore/describe the economic, social, academic, etc., gaps by disaggregated groups.
    • Prioritize 2-3 most important concerns or challenges
  5. Prioritize disaggregated data and describe data, by both content (or aspect) and by the marginalized group(s)
    • Is it an overall school, organization, community issue, or just certain entities in one context, or across multiple contexts, or aspect
  6. Explore trends that have surfaced from the analysis of the data. Trends should include both positive and negative data trends.
  7. Develop/compose a narrative based on the findings/trends
    • Discuss the focus group and the inequitable outcomes
    • Discuss the issues/areas where other are achieving success
    • Discuss the performance indicator(s) and/or sub-indicator areas where minimum expectations have not been met
    • Reference appropriate data views (reports) that include 2-3 years of data
    • Discuss the “story” behind the data (initiates, policies, laws, programs, etc.)
    • Discuss the urgency of the issue
  8. Describe your findings in narrative form using the charts and diagrams to augment your analysis.

Part 5: Collaboration:

Continue to synthesize your Equity Audits findings and your collaborations with key stakeholders. This sections helps to validate your data analysis.

  • Discuss the similarities of your equity audits. You may also address the differences in your equity audits or the inconsistencies between your findings
  • Discuss the efforts of key players and participant’s efforts to address/change inequitable outcomes for your focus group
  • Discuss the collaborative efforts of your team to better understand the problem/issues facing your targeted student group, and how this assisted in deepening your collective understanding of your selected problem/issue
  • Collectively synthesize your findings.

Part 6: Actions and Resources

Discuss the implicit assumptions (beliefs (beliefs and attitudes) and explicit assumptions (behaviors, practice) and how this has framed current practices

  • Discuss removing barriers to educational opportunities: Discuss the academic or opportunity barriers that currently exist for your targeted population
  • Leadership for cultural competency - Include assumptions that explain your team’s rationale for your planning and sequencing actions to enact change in practice or behaviors to accomplish your recommendations
  • Resources: Systemic changes requires human, fiscal, material, technology, and time resources to achieve the desired state of reform. How these resources are prioritized to align with identified needs affects access to, the quality of, and effectiveness of the reform. Therefore,
    • Discuss the available resources that could be used to support the recommendations
    • Discuss additional resources that would compliment the resources currently available.
    • Discuss policies that could support or limit resources needed to implement recommendations and eradicate issue/problem.

Part 7: Recommendations

The final step to offer at least one comprehensive recommendation needed to extend opportunities to be welcomed and successful in the community in which they live.

  • Discuss activities or program needed to fit the needs and/or learning styles of your focused students. Please keep in mind, your recommendations may be a redesign of an existing program, or the creation of a program, to that of professional training.
    • First, brainstorm ideas (recommendations)
      • Discuss/explain each idea thoroughly
      • Discuss/explain how each idea will accomplish the intended outcome (i.e. improve academic proficiency, increase educational opportunities, behavioral changes in staff and/or students, increase parental decision-making opportunities, build a sustainable collaborative professional learning environment, etc.)
      • Discuss the urgency to adopt (or adapt) each recommendation
      • Next, prioritize recommendations
        • As a team, agree on 1-3 recommendations, or 1 intensive/extensive recommendation, that is urgently needed to address the issue of inequity that your team has unearthed.

Part 8: Presentation

Your collaborative team is responsible for composing a well-written narrative that includes all of the components required of an Equity Plan. In narrative form, your team must organize your Equity Plan to effectively convey the above information by thoroughly engaging the complexities of the issue while displaying logical development, adequate support, and grammatical and mechanical competence. Therefore, each team will prepare, and submit a well organized written report. (See Writing Your Team’s Equity Plan)

In addition to your team’s written work, each team must participate in a class presentation of your team’s journey in developing an equity plan. In addition to the multiple perspectives of the data analysis, your team must convince the audience of the urgency to address this issue.

IV. Writing Your Teams' Equity Plan

Please keep in mind that the following outline is only a guide, and each team is encouraged to use their creative expertise in the preparation of the writing of their completed Equity Plan and in the team’s oral presentation.

  1. Title and Title Page:
    • Create a title that captures the area(s) of focus, recommendation(s) or data analysis
    • List the Names of your members and school district
    • Course and due date of assignment
  2. Introduction and Subject-positioning
    • Acquaint the reader with your team’s social justice perspective to include the need to create deliberate discussions needed to resist practices and mindsets that have contributed to inequitable outcomes amongst various groups of people. Of particular concern are those socio demographic groups who have been “written off” because of their race/ethnicity, gender, social class, disability, language, and sexual orientation.
    • Discuss your team’s initial problem or focusing question(s) that launched your data inquiry
    • Share the historical, as well as the existing information of issues in creating equitable outcomes (or perpetuating inequitable outcomes) for your identified group.
    • Discuss your team’s moral obligation/responsibility to address the inequities between your focus group, and your obligation to create, implement, and sustain a plan to stop the disparity (academic, social, access, economic, and/or emotional) from widening.
  3. Discussion – Data Collection, Data, and Data Analysis
    • Discuss data and data analysis process
    • Highlight data trends that assisted your team in zeroing in on a specific problem/issue
    • Highlight your analysis of the data with figures, and or tables.
    • Discuss the questions that emerged from your analyses.
    • Discuss additional information that was needed (or obtained) to further investigate the issues that emerged.
    • Collaboration - In addition to discussions with teammates’, discuss the outcomes of collaborating with others regarding your data findings. With who did your team (individually or as a team), discuss the nature and/or the seriousness of issue(s) that have emerged from the analysis of your key data? Discuss your findings from your collaborations. Be sure to include the opinions of others where appropriate.
  4. Actions - Implicit/Explicit - Social justice requires active work on the part of community leaders to change, within school and out of school environmental circumstances that have a destructive impact on shaping the academic, emotional, and social development of children.
    • Discuss the established practices that have evolved which may have contributed to the issue(s) of equity or inequities
    • Discuss the implicit assumptions (beliefs and attitudes) and explicit assumptions (behaviors) of educators and how these assumptions have framed practices at your site or district
    • Discuss the assumptions (explicit/explicit) that have been made regarding your targeted student group
  5. Resources - What available resources have been, and could be utilized to address the issue(s) of inequity your team has identified?
    • What additional resources would compliment the current support systems?
    • What are the school, district, state, or national trends/policies that could limit or support addressing the inequity?
  6. Recommendations - The requirements of this social justice perspective do not merely imply assessing needs and providing services in order to mainstream marginalized populations with dictated services and program content. Rather it means building participatory, equitable, and just relationships to create trusting environments with the community in which they live and work. Therefore, select one (no more than 2) preferred options that identify what actions should be taken to rectify the inequities. Describe and explain, in detail, your team’s recommendation.
  7. Conclude by reminding the reader your identified issue/problem the need to address this issue. Assure the reader how your Equity Plan is in alignment with the current initiatives, agendas, and/or mandates of your community in which the issue/problem resides.
  8. References: Include a reference page of sources cited
  9. Style: All papers must utilize the most recent edition of the APA or MLA manual style (as designated by the instructor).
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