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Gates Chili educators working towards equity for all

For years, schools have focused on equality, aiming to provide an educational environment equal for all students. In recent times, that paradigm has shifted to equity, that is, giving everyone what they need to be successful. This shift is due in part to a better understanding of the importance of culturally-responsive education and the identification of disproportionality.

Culturally-responsive education (CR-E) is an approach that recognizes the importance of including various cultural references in all aspects of learning. CR-E ensures that instruction and learning environment reflects the needs of all students to support their overall success. Currently, Gates Chili students are achieving at disproportionate, or different, rates.

The work to overcome this disproportionality at Gates Chili has been methodical and strategic. It began in 2018, with administrators and building principals. The circle of educators widened in the summer of 2019, with more administrators being added to the team for training. This fall, Gates Chili teachers, school-related professionals, Board of Education members and parents came together to form the Root Cause team.

“Through the Root Cause process, we are co-identifying the beliefs, policies, and practices contributing to disproportionality and providing solutions through an iterative process,” said David Lopez, founding senior equity associate with the New York University: Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.

Since September 2019, the Root Cause team has been working with Lopez to identify the underlying causes of disproportionality at Gates Chili. By spring of this year, the team will create a strategic, multi-year plan to improve outcomes for all students.

“David is helping us analyze our data and create a plan specific to Gates Chili so that we can create equitable opportunities that help all children thrive,” said Jason deJong, director of pupil personnel services. “Creating and cultivating relationships with our students and families will further this work over the next three to five years and beyond.”

Gates Chili’s efforts around culturally-responsive education fit into the New York State framework for Culturally Responsive- Sustaining Education (CR-SE). A core tenet of CR-SE is high expectations and rigorous instruction for all students.

“A common misconception is that when districts work on addressing academic disparities, individuals assume that they are lowering expectations for students,” Lopez continued. “We are not looking to lower our expectations of students. In fact, just the opposite; we seek to create a system that is culturally-responsive and sustaining.”

“The district's focus on cultural responsiveness has given me a new lens to view myself and the world,” said Carol Stehm, assistant superintendent for instruction. “I've come to understand that we all have biases that shape words and behaviors. We can change our thoughts, words and behaviors or the lens in which we view the world, by becoming more aware of the life experiences and situations of those around us.”

Click here to read more about the CR-SE framework.


root cause team members


root cause team members