Over the past year and a half, many school districts have gone through a vast reappraisal of their policies and perspectives on racial inclusion and equity, as the killing of George Floyd and massive public protests compelled them to address enduring shortcomings in how they’re meeting the needs of the diverse populations they serve.
Much has been written about how districts are responding to their communities by supporting an array of new efforts focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion. In a new special report, EdWeek Market Brief looks at the role that a critical segment of the K-12 community — education companies working in schools — need to play, in order to allow DEI efforts to take hold.
The special report, available exclusively to EdWeek Market Brief members, is based on a nationally representative survey of 931 district administrators, school principals, and teachers. They were asked about what specific types of products, product features, and company practices and behavior they need to see from education vendors to be convinced that those businesses are taking DEI seriously.
The report delivers insights on fundamental questions affecting the work of education companies that face tougher expectations from districts on DEI, including:
- The specific kinds of products and features — in curriculum, assessment, professional development, and other areas – that K-12 officials believe have the greatest potential to support DEI.
- The most glaring shortcomings that district administrators and classroom educators see in curriculum materials, from their biases and omissions to their failure to help classroom teachers navigate difficult lessons about racism, inequity, and inclusion.
- The biggest barriers that K-12 officials see standing in the way of their efforts to support racial equity and inclusion and reduce academic disparities between white and non-white students.
- The steps that district leaders say education companies need to take — in their leadership, in hiring, in public messaging, in their product performance — to convince K-12 officials they’re taking DEI seriously.
- The impact that the recent wave of state laws and policies aimed at restricting school discussions of racism will have on curriculum reviews and interactions with vendors.
- A look at which district and school officials are taking the most active roles on issues of race and equity, and who among them wields the most influence.
EdWeek Market Brief reporters David Saleh Rauf and Emma Kate Fittes contribute stories to the report that draw out the experiences district leaders, as well as the voices of company officials who are trying to bring DEI into their products and work environments.
The K-12 leaders include Eric Moore, the senior accountability, research, and equity officer for the 36,000-student Minneapolis school district, who talks about why well-meaning professional development focused on DEI so often falls short, and how those pitfalls can be avoided.
“What I see in districts oftentimes is a commitment to do diversity work, but it’s not funded properly,” Moore explains in the report. “This type of PD is challenging because it has to be consistent and ongoing.”
And the report offers the perspective of company officials like Ade Gachegua, Pearson’s diversity, equity and inclusion manager for products and services, who is leading a review of the giant company’s editorial content guidelines on race and ethnicity.
“[T]here are fundamental principles about decency and ethics and behavior and human rights that are at the core of a properly and effectively functioning society,” Gachegua says. “Why should education be any different?”
Our survey and reporting also gets at the backlash that has come with renewed DEI-focused efforts — the recent rise of state policies aimed at restricting discussions of racism in schools, and the anger evident at school board meetings from parents who do not agree with their districts’ curricula.
Our hope is that leaders of education companies will come away with a sense of the possibilities for supporting DEI through their products and policies — and with ideas for how they can rise to districts’ expectations.
For more information on downloading the report, or becoming an EdWeek Market Brief member, go here.
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