Students at Rockwell Elementary spent time this spring writing notes of appreciation to share just how grateful they are to City of Redmond workers. Students thanked the workers for continuing to work during the global pandemic.
Opportunity and Equity
The Opportunity, Equity and Inclusion Department provides leadership for the district’s efforts to build a culture of opportunity, equity and inclusion for all students, families and employees. This webpage provides information on many of the activities related to diversity and outreach to close opportunity gaps for students of color, for students with disabilities; and for traditionally underserved student groups.
- Message from LWSD Director of Opportunity, Equity and Inclusion, June 10, 2020
- Message from LWSD Superintendent, Dr. Jane Stavem, June 1, 2020
- Statement from the LWSD Board of Directors, June 1, 2020
Dear Lake Washington School District Community,
A Zimbabwean proverb extolls, “Until the lion tells his side of the story, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” These wise words are ever more important to heed and act on as a community focused on the education of each and every student.
Though our Strategic Plan looks squarely into the future of ensuring that, in Lake Washington School District, every student receives a world-class education, we acknowledge that our history tells a different story. A different story emerges when one looks deeply at our past curricula, much of our present curricula, instructional practices that lack cultural inclusiveness and responsiveness, and the language that we have used to have discussions and dialogue in our classrooms regarding our nation’s past and present.
Our Sense of Urgency
The current events have shown us, more than ever, that we need to acknowledge and teach those stories of the lion, which are embodiments of beauty, grace, intelligence, ingenuity, resistance, and resilience.
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, along with young people, such as Tamir Rice and Trayvon Martin, have mobilized the many voices of youth, staff, and communities within our district. These voices have called on our district to enact change because those five aforementioned names are part of a long list of individuals whose life stories were changed and ended by their tragic deaths.
These deaths amplify the need to end racism through intentional, strategic learning and action, which includes having curricula, instructional practices, and meaningful and multi-faceted dialogue that integrates topics and concepts, such as bias, stereotypes, prejudice, and racism.
Along with those blights, we recognize that the work should also include a broader and deeper perspective regarding Black History and the movements that have sought to extinguish not only individual racism but systemic institutional and structural racism, as well.
As a district, we have begun the all-important work to dismantle individual, institutional, and structural racism through our professional learning with staff, recruiting and hiring practices, most current curricula adoptions, and student and community engagement and outreach.
We invite you to explore some of the systemic work underway at our Equity webpage. We’ll continue to highlight work throughout the District over time on this site.
We understand that we are at the beginning of this journey; we have a long way to go, but we know that it is worth it because we want a community and a world that is accepting, impartial, and above all—better. Our children and diverse communities deserve it, the foundational ideals of our country are heralded for it, and the rallying cries in our nation are demanding it.
Therefore, without reservation, we will hold ourselves accountable and work every single day to live up to our goals and aspirations. And we expect that our students, families, and communities will hold us accountable as partners for a brighter and more just world.
Director of Opportunity, Equity and Inclusion
Lake Washington School District
Lake Washington School District Community:
Over the past week we have watched events unfold across our country that reflect the anger and outrage that has once again been sparked by a senseless and horrific death. Mr. George Floyd’s life was taken during an arrest by a white Minneapolis police officer, once again reminding us of the wounds that have long been part of our country’s history of police brutality and racial divide.
As people assembled for peaceful protests to collectively express outrage and call for change, we unfortunately saw violence, chaos, and looting spill over into our streets. We all share the collective sense of shock and unrest as we try to make sense of these acts, here and across our nation.
This sense of unrest is further compounded by the extended time of isolation we have all experienced which has been a negative reality for many in our communities as we continue to deal with the effects and outcomes of the pandemic closures.
All of this is to say that there are many raw emotions and intense feelings as we begin the month of June, and the final weeks of education in Lake Washington.
First, we acknowledge the historical racism that continues to inflict pain and creates inequities for many people and in many areas of our school district, our communities, and our world. We will continue to work toward racial justice with words and actions as we mourn the recent and past deaths of those who continue to remind us of the work that must continue in and outside of our schools.
Second, as a school district, we must continue to help our students find and use their voices and actively prepare them to be adults who can collectively impact lasting change and bring about true peace in our world.
Finally, as we approach the last few weeks of our school year, I hope we can all reflect on our own personal journeys for how we contribute to both problems and solutions that address the gaps in opportunities, achievement, and experiences that are the realities faced by our students and families every day.
If any of our students, families, or staff members need support, our school counselors are available for support. You can contact your principal or school counselor to set up time to talk.
In addition, the National Association of School Psychologists has valuable resources for talking with students about violence as well as talking with students about race and privilege. You can find those resources at this link: https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources-and-podcasts/diversity/social-justice/understanding-race-and-privilege
While we are still asked to stay physically distanced, I would ask that you reach out in every way possible to your neighbors, your community, and your loved ones to express your care and concern for their well-being. Now more than ever, we must extend the hand of friendship, compassion, and understanding if we are to see our way forward during this challenging time.
Dr. Jane Stavem, Superintendent
Lake Washington School District
Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. We say their names not because they are the only three. They are three of many whose lives were taken and sadly, their names are now part of our history as a country that should be better because of the promise that was put forth that all people are created equal. However, this ideal will continue to be just an ideal—an aspiration—if we only see these names of Black women, men, and children as sad markers in our history instead of a call to action to make change for a better future that is equitable for every one of our students.
We understand, as a Board, that silence is comforting for some and deafening for others. We understand that silence is also complicity. If we are silent, we are implicitly saying that the lives of Black people are less than or do not matter. We believe that the lives of Black people do matter. We believe that it is our responsibility to condemn and speak out against discrimination, hate, and racism. As writer and activist, Alice Walker stated, “Look closely at the present that you are constructing; it should look like the future you are dreaming.” In the present, we acknowledge that we do not have all the answers. In the present, we understand that those furthest away from economic, racial, and/or educational justice are in those places and positions because of inequities inherent in our structures, systems, and institutions.
Our Strategic Plan and Board Values speak to the future that we are constructing:
- A district with access to opportunities for all students not just to survive but to thrive.
- A district with socio-emotional learning supports that are differentiated and culturally responsive.
- A district where students, staff, and families are heard and valued for their individual and collective perspectives, knowledge, and histories.
- A district where students will choose their trajectories and futures because the district staff support our students’ realities and their hopes and dreams by continuing our work to be a place with a diverse, high-quality, and culturally responsive workforce.
We will be able to do the aforementioned work through being listeners and learners. Through our intentional, and many times uncomfortable work, we will collectively build a broader and more responsive community wherein our values, beliefs, and actions exemplify the brighter future where inequities have been eliminated, creating a new reality - for every single student within the Lake Washington School District.
- Our Curricula & Processes: Snapshots of the Past, Present and Future
- Curriculum Work in Progress
- Weaving Our Work Together
- Equity Work Belongs to Everyone
Reflecting the diversity of our community, ensuring equitable access and opportunities for each and every student, and providing relevant and culturally sustaining materials and practices have been key goals in our curriculum adoptions.
In LWSD, the materials we adopt are determined by curriculum adoption committees. The committees are composed of teachers from as many schools as possible, administrators, district specialists and parents and/or community members.
Student voice is engaged in the adoptions in multiple ways, including focus groups, surveys, and panel presentations. In our most recent adoptions, committee members were given training in equitable practices and received guidance from the Directors of Equity, Special Education, Accelerated Programs, and Intervention Services in how to evaluate curriculum for access for all students. The committees use research based and district developed rubrics to evaluate curriculum and in the past several years, indicators for equity and culturally sustaining practices have been added to every category.
This work has resulted in the adoption of curriculum that is significantly different from previous adoptions. We are in our first year of implementing our new K-5 Science curriculum and teachers, parents, and students have given very positive feedback about the relevance and access it has for all students.
We are currently in the process of adopting new 6-8 English Language Arts (ELA) curriculum and will make a recommendation to the Board for new materials at the next Board meeting. The 6-8 ELA committee is excited about the recommendation because the materials are far more relevant, dynamic, and culturally responsive than the materials currently in place.
We are also in the process of adopting new materials for ELA 9-12, with a recommendation of materials planned for December 2020. All 6-12 ELA teachers will engage in professional learning as part of these adoptions. It is of paramount importance to the committee to select materials that reflect our community and provide relevant and important learning opportunities for our students and that as educators, we continually engage in learning ourselves.
We are planning to start the adoption cycle for new curriculum materials for Social Studies 6-12 in the fall of 2020, with implementation of new materials planned for fall of 2022. As part of this cycle, we will again form a committee comprised of a diverse set of stakeholders who will engage in deep learning around standards and effective and culturally sustaining practices before evaluating curriculum. We will also seek input and guidance from the larger community, including student and parent voice.
However, in multiple content areas, it has been several years since new materials have been adopted and the resources in use may not reflect current thinking for effective or relevant resources. In order to provide support to teachers and remedy the issue, the Teaching and Learning department formed content area advisories this year, comprised of teachers from schools that represented all attendance areas.
These advisories met over the course of the year to develop guiding principles, engage in collaborative learning, determine professional learning opportunities for teachers, align instruction to current effective practices and standards, and identify gaps/needs in resources and practices. Every advisory identified that providing relevant, engaging, and empowering instruction and learning experiences for all students is an essential goal. Every advisory also identified areas where we are not fully meeting this goal and committed to working with urgency and purpose to improve our programs and the experience of our students.
Curricula should be deeply intertwined within race and equity work, as described above with the collaboration between the Teaching & Learning and Opportunity, Equity, and Inclusion Departments. To ensure that our efforts will be ingrained in everything we do in order to dismantle racism, our work is grounded in the foundations of cultural competency, which includes raising individual awareness, deepening knowledge, increasing skills, and providing the foundation for advocacy and action.
Below is an abbreviated listing of what we have done and will expand upon:
- Race and equity training for administrators and staff on building Equity Teams, which is led by the Equity Department and race-centered educational partners
- School Equity Teams are in every school—the work is focused equity, race, and cultural competency (e.g. awareness, skills, knowledge, and advocacy/action)
- School Equity Teams work with their administrators to lead learning for staff
- Race and equity training for staff across areas of responsibility, such as transportation, security, nurses, teachers, paras and instructional assistants, communications staff, office support personnel, instructional specialists and coaches, Human Resources, and district leadership
- The District Equity Team meets about nine times a year (members include community partners, parents/guardians, staff, and administrators)
- Cross-departmental collaboration of the Equity Director, Equity Specialist, and Family Engagement and Community Outreach Liaison with other departments, such as Teaching & Learning, Professional Learning, Intervention Services, Transportation, Food Services, Special Education, and Student Services
- Learning for staff and administrators is centered on culturally responsive teaching
- Learning for staff regarding shifts in instructional practices to more differentiated and inclusive to reach all learners
- Increasing and maintaining diverse community partnerships to support our most vulnerable or historically underserved populations (e.g. Eastside Pathways, Friends of Youth, Baby Corner, King County Housing Authority, City of Redmond, City of Kirkland, and Eastside for All)
- Social-emotional learning to support each student because we know students have different ways of processing and they have assets that should be honored in order to build stronger and more compassionate communities
- Positive Behavior Intervention Support, which is grounded in equity, is being rolled out across the district in stages, with a focus on supporting better approaches to discipline by being proactive and appropriately responsive, such as in instances of racism, harassment, and bullying
- Intentional family engagement and community outreach that is increasingly culturally responsive at the district and school level
- Increasing student voice, especially for historically under-served or marginalized groups, through community events, focus group work, classroom learning, and problem-solving engagements
As in any large organization, we understand that equity work is not the responsibility of just one person or within the domain of only one department. We understand that everyone must take ownership of the work, especially if we want deep, sustainable change in order to support the well-being and academic success of our students.
Therefore, every department has extensive equity goals. Below are a handful of examples from some of our departments:
- Human Resources: Improve hiring and staffing processes to increase the diversity of our teaching staff
- Intervention Support: Provide instruction and intervention training and support for teachers that address equity, cultural competency, and race. Promote inclusive instructional practices.
- Special Education: Equitably adopt, apply and evaluate resources and services for students to address equity, race, and disabilities including dyslexia or reading disorders and provide training and support for teachers that address equity, race, and disabilities, and promote inclusive instructional practices.
- College & Career Services: Help support students in overcoming self-limiting expectations that limit access to post-secondary opportunities.
- Accountability, Data, & Research: Ensure data sources include a variety of student data sources to analyze student achievement including qualitative, quantitative, and student voice to develop specific strategies and actions to close achievement gaps.
- Business & Support Services: Reduce fee barriers in accessing programs and classes.