Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in State Education Agencies

Across the country, state education agencies are re-examining how they infuse equity into their work. This includes ensuring the success of students of color and students from underserved communities as well as using a lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) across all work. Westat’s involvement in 2 Regional Comprehensive Centers highlights some of those efforts.

Region 14 Comprehensive Center (R14CC)

To increase access to and retention of effective educators for underserved students (African American, Hispanic, and economically disadvantaged), R14CC (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas) supported state, regional, and local education agencies through identifying and developing resources and professional learning opportunities to implement evidence-based interventions. Learn more: Carnegie Summit 2022.

Karen Gray-Adams

Because districts were identified as having equity opportunity gaps, state education leaders, together with R14CC, engaged in conversations with Regional Equity Leads. Together, the teams reviewed district equity plans to identify equity gaps and examine plan quality. The R14CC then conducted a training on ways data could be interpreted and perceived.

Next, R14CC developed a standardized approach to analyzing data and identifying equity gap root causes. Regional Equity Leads used this to identify the top 3 equity gap root causes and strategies to address them. This allowed the regional staff to determine the frequency with which root causes and strategies appeared on districts’ equity plans, providing them with a better picture of how districts were trying to improve equitable access.

Last, through professional learning sessions facilitated by R14CC, Regional Equity Leads developed a shared language and understanding of cultural competency (e.g., honoring histories, cultures, languages, and traditions), relevancy, and responsiveness. Westat’s Dr. Karen Gray-Adams, the Project Lead for R14CC, explained, “With increased knowledge, as well as resources and tools, Regional Equity Leads were better prepared to address equity issues within their districts.”

Region 5 Comprehensive Center (R5CC)

R5CC (Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) worked closely with state education leaders to develop a series of book studies for agency employees and partners in their regional educational agencies. The work included resources and support to train staff on how to lead a book study, and then return to their departments and do so. The program’s goal is to generate honest discussions among staff about how they can bring a wide array of perspectives into their work, and ensure that DEI and belongingness are part of their everyday jobs.

Brad Keller

The state will use the resource R5CC developed to train agency and regional staff to lead book studies. The resource walks through a series of questions for each leader to answer in structuring and managing their book study. It also includes sample discussion tools and an annotated bibliography of books and other media to choose from. Using this resource, each book study leader will work with their coworkers to develop a timeline, set norms for discussions, and lead regular discussions. Representatives from each book study group will then present the results of their discussions to the other book study leaders. R5CC State Co-Lead Dr. Brad Keller notes that, “This resource should help people who have never led a book study know that they can do it, and that they can increase the salience of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their work.”

With increased knowledge, as well as resources and tools, Regional Equity Leads were better prepared to address equity issues within their districts.

- Karen Gray-Adams, Ph.D., Project Lead, Education Studies

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