Equity

Resources

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Emilie Hard, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services
(425) 837-7030

EQUITY AND CULTURAL COMPETENCY

We believe in building and sustaining a culture of kindness in the Issaquah School District. Doing everything we can to support ALL students to thrive is at the core of our mission. In order to thrive, students need to be treated with respect and kindness by adults and other students. They need to have a positive sense of belonging and the belief that they have the power to be successful. Our responsibility is to educate students as informed citizens, to teach them to respect other perspectives, and to show kindness to others. 

As our community evolves and demographics change, we are charged with reshaping our practices to best meet the needs of our students and families we serve. As we work toward accomplishing our mission, we pledge as a school district to question, grow, and evolve in our understanding of diversity and what it means to be culturally competent. 

Equity and Cultural Competency Poster

Equity is about treating all children as the individuals that they are, not treating all children the same. That’s why we are deeply committed to ensuring that all students receive what they personally need to develop to their full potential and succeed, and to narrowing the achievement/opportunity gap between our highest and lowest performing students. 

“If you have more than one child, then you understand equity! In education, we must treat children with their individual needs in mind!” Dr. Pedro Noguera

Our school district  is working diligently to increase our knowledge about diverse cultures and races and become more culturally competent. Our equity work includes recruiting and supporting diverse staff, providing professional development for staff, curriculum development and implementation, parent and family engagement, and ensuring equitable opportunities for students. Please read on to learn more about our work in each of these areas.

Recruiting and Supporting Diverse Staff

Recruiting and supporting a diverse staff is a major focus for the Issaquah School District as our enrollment grows and our demographics evolve. The ISD has experienced a 27% growth in student population over the last decade, recently cresting the 20,000 total student enrollment mark. According to the specific demographic identifiers used by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), we have seen an increase of 137% in the number of students who identify as having Hispanic or Latino heritage, an increase of 87.7% in the number of students who identify as having Asian heritage, and an increase of 121% in the number of students who self-identify as non-white. Additionally, our English language learners have increased by 189%! 

The students in the ISD learning community have benefited from the increasing diversity of our learning community, particularly with regard to our classified staff and those who volunteer in our schools. The opportunity to interact with adults who can share a breadth of experiences, a variety of spoken languages, and even simple things like new types of food, broadens a student’s ability to interact with someone new. As well, it makes it possible for students to take comfort interacting with people and traditions that are familiar. 

We still have work to do recruiting and supporting diverse teaching and certificated staff. It is especially challenging for us as Washington State is experiencing a significant teacher shortage. Additionally, we are experiencing a national trend of decreasing diversity among people choosing to enter the teaching profession. While we are challenged, we are nonetheless committed to hiring a diverse staff. We search for staff who can articulate an openness to learning themselves while providing a variety of student experiences and approaches to learning. Public education thrives on creating and responding to an honorable, thinking, and skillful citizenry. We are committed to building a staff who can engage students in critical thinking, and particularly about how culture, values, beliefs, and traditions influence our thinking and how we view’s our experiences. 

The Issaquah Education Association has an Active Diversity Committee that provides opportunities for self-identified members of color to meet, socialize, discuss and provide the Association guidance on meeting the needs of our diverse staff members.

Professional Development for Staff

Research suggests that an incremental approach to cultural competency training may lead to the greatest impact. With that in mind, we are providing ongoing professional development and engagement opportunities for staff to strengthen their abilities as culturally competent educators. Four years ago we began training our administrators in cultural competency in order to support their learning and empower them as equity leaders. Dr. Caprice Hollins and Ilsa Govan have been our primary equity mentors and teachers, deepening our awareness and understanding about bias and stereotypes. We began providing training in cultural competency with teaching staff in 2016-17 and will continue this journey of learning with all employees for years to come. A partnership with the Puget Sound Educational Service District Equity Department is also supporting our work. Additionally, consultants such as Gary Howard and Dr. Shawn Ginwright have shared their insights and promoted reflection and analysis.

Curriculum Development and Implementation

As we re-examine our curriculum, our goal is to provide materials and programs that explore the experiences, perspectives and contributions of multiple cultures, groups and individuals. We are using an equity lens to develop elementary social studies curriculum that includes multiple points of view, primary resources, and the use of culturally responsive instruction. Similarly, the district is updating middle and high school curriculum to be more representative of diverse cultures and perspectives.

Ensuring Equitable Opportunities for Students

The Issaquah School Board is committed to equity, and has been working toward the goal of including an equity focus in our learning goals (ENDS) for all students. The Board is also working to develop governing policies to ensure an equitable and culturally supportive environment exists for students, families, and staff.

The ISD Equity Advisory Group, formed in January 2015, meets regularly to hear from one another about barriers to learning, positive steps being taken, and to advise the district on ways to improve equity in our increasingly diverse district.  The group of parents, teachers, para-professionals, administrators and community members in the ISD represents multiple voices and perspectives from different racial, ethnic, religious and other groups.

Family Engagement and Partnership
The ISD Family Partnership Team was formed in 2015 for the purpose of supporting families in navigating the school system.  The group offers resources in a variety of languages, hosts district-wide events throughout the year, collects feedback from parents and seeks to support families in partnering with the district to strengthen all students’ success.  


Cultural Competency Talk image - Caprice Hollins on Stage speak to ISD Staff

ISD Employees Take Part in Cultural Competency Training as Part of Teacher Work Day

January 30, 2017 was a non-school day for students, but educators in the Issaquah School District gathered together for an important professional development training focused on cultural competency. With our community and student population becoming more and more diverse, the Issaquah School District has made increasing our knowledge and skills about different cultures and races a priority to support teaching and learning for all students. Staff participated in various breakout sessions throughout the day and heard a keynote from Dr. Caprice Hollins. Dr. Hollins, a former Seattle School District Equity Director, consults with districts nationally and is the co-author of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; Facilitating Conversations on Race.