To support NTC in “walking our talk” to fulfill the mission, in 2021 we launched a 23-member National Equity Commission and Student Advisory. The Commission membership was curated to include a broad range of backgrounds and expertise: systems leaders, teachers, students, and experts whose work supports students with learning differences, BIPOC students, multilingual learners, students experiencing poverty, and immigrant students, as well as representatives from the social work and behavioral science sectors.
The Commission’s hypothesis is that by centering teaching in the humanity¹ of educators, students, their families, and communities, we can begin to dismantle the long-standing inequitable systems and design new ones that support teachers and students of diverse backgrounds to thrive.
With the support of the Commission, we’ve examined this hypothesis through the lens of NTC’s mission: to disrupt the predictability of educational inequities for systemically under served students by accelerating educator effectiveness.
Who are we as educators, as people, and how do our experiences shape us and show up in our practice? How do we stay curious, do deep introspection, and support others? How do we grow from where we are to where we aspire to be?
Who are we teaching? Do we know the full richness of our students’ stories?
How can we honor the humanity of our students, their families, and their communities in instructional design and the culture of schools?
What supports do educators need to balance the art and science of teaching with the goals of students and their families?
What are we ultimately trying to achieve as educators, working in partnership with students, families, and communities? How can we protect and prioritize these goals in the structures and systems of schools?
The Elephant in the (Class)room represents a proposed path forward to address these questions in a way that will design new systems based on a foundation of equity² and humanity.
¹ When we reference humanity in this context, we are drawing on the work of education scholar Carla Shalaby and others when they reference all learners as human beings, with human beings’ unalienable rights to be seen and treated as a full human being, free from threats to identity and harm of any kind, and retaining the right to self-determination.
² We define equity as the absence of disparities in the long-term academic and social trajectories (and in its key social determinants) systemically associated with social advantage/disadvantage. It’s worth distinguishing between equity and equality in education. Equality in education would mean that all students and educators would have the same access and amount (e.g., per-pupil spending, access to advanced coursework, professional development opportunities) regardless of their needs or assets. While we don’t intend to diminish the impact of inequality in education, equity in this context addresses the root of the problem because it attends to the needs and strengths of both students and educators.
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