The Color Line: Where Do You Stand?

We have been having a conversation about racial equity at the Foundation and working on Courageous Conversations with Glen Singleton. Equity has been part of the Foundation’s education agenda since I joined 7 years ago so the conversation is not new but it did make me stop and reflect:  How focused have our investments been on low income and minority kids? While we’ve primarily been working in districts that serve low-income and minority students, isn’t there more that we could do? I was asked in another meeting: Where are the best practices in closing the achievement gap? Do we know where the outliers are and what their secret sauce is? There is certainly more that we could do if we can’t answer that question. We’ve also made a commitment to take a look at networks that support teachers of color—Where are they? Who are they? How might we support them?

One of the exercises that Glenn Singleton uses is to have folks rate themselves on a series of questions that help establish where you sit on a “color line.” It’s a pretty dramatic and visual way to show who is privileged and who is not. He makes it clear that everyone on the line has a role in the conversations about racial equity and I wondered for a second: If I lined up my investments, where might they fall on the color line? One thing is clear, the color line can’t be ignored in education, and I’m looking forward to having teachers help us lead these conversations in places where we work. I was reminded of the way the Strategic Inquiry process starts with that question: Who is not performing well? Irma Zardoya, President and CEO from the New York Leadership Academy, said it best:

How are you going to support the 1/3 of kids who are not successful?

What if all of our work in schools and districts started with that question might we serve black, brown and indigenous students better?