Equity Work has Lacked Commitment, Coherence, and Accountability

Equity work lacks commitment compared to other district priorities. And CPS is not yet using a coherent and systemic framework for equity work.

  • “Administrators set the conditions for educators’ work, and educators set the conditions for students’ work. This means every aspect of our work must be viewed as equity work. Consequently, we recommend that all CPS administrators and educators... should develop and use some set of common, equity-focused principles to guide our daily work.”1

  • “Many principals clearly stated that they know what it looks like when the district is committed to something, and we’re not committed to equity. There was a call for CPS to ‘put our money where our mouth is.’ They lifted up High Expertise Teaching (HET) as an… example of what a fully committed effort looks like… When equity is clearly visible as a priority in the budget, calendar, and schedule then it will clearly be a driving force in CPS... The current state was described as more so of an emotional conversation or set of responses, with a lack of thinking around sustaining efforts that can create real impact.”2

  • “At the district and schools level,” CPS has not yet made “a commitment to transformative change and dismantling systems of oppression -- including white supremacy, [increasing] cultural competency... for ALL teachers, and [setting] higher standards of accountability for pervasive behaviors that negatively impact learning outcomes for all of our children.”3

Without a coherent equity framework, individuals bear a disproportionate share of the responsibility for addressing systemic issues of racism and inequity. This is particularly true for people of color.4

  • “Within an inequitable system, individual administrators and educators play an essential role in maintaining (or disrupting) inequity.”5

  • “Parents and caregivers of children of color, particularly Black children, noted that… the decisions to provide culturally-responsive and relevant curriculum often falls on the individual teacher as opposed to a school wide expectation. Therefore, a child or family can ‘get lucky’ by being in a particular teacher’s class who has committed to educating about cultural diversity or miss out if they get a teacher who does not commit to the work.”6

  • “The culture of the school was a consistent driver in how individuals experienced equity. Some participants noted that ‘some schools do equity work better than others’ and that ‘it really depends on the leadership of the building’ if equity work is prioritized… [Related] root causes of inequity… [include]: sense of belonging; whether schools expressed a visible commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion; and whether building leaders, teachers, and professional staff had the training… to support a school culture that openly welcomed diversity.”7

Educators face expectations and time demands that are intense, disconnected, and sometimes contradictory. These impede educators’ capacity to invest in sustained, impactful equity work -- and sometimes present concrete barriers to equity.8

Equity-focused professional development has been insufficient for educators and administrators.

  • “Teaching staff (both teachers of color and teachers who are white)... expressed that they are committed to and interested in learning how to create more culturally relevant classrooms; however, the structure of the day and the year do not always allow for… meaningful professional development opportunities.”9

  • Principals reported that “professional development focused on equity should be the top priority... [And] efforts need to be made to make equity PD more integrated with content PD… There was a desire for teachers to spend time in their department meetings focused on... [teaching] in more culturally competent ways rather than [focusing] on rolling out the next curriculum.”10

  • “CPS is now beyond the point of raising consciousness… administrators need a tool kit to do the work of promoting equity throughout their buildings.”11

There is a lack of accountability for educators and administrators whose decisions negatively impact equity.12

When espoused values are not matched with “on the ground” change, it creates fundamental trust gaps between those who have power and those who do not -- particularly people of color.

  • “For decades, parents of color have demanded that the district hire more educators of color and train and provide resources for all current educators and administrators to be increasingly culturally competent. Yet Cambridge continues to pat itself on the back… [without being] honest and [putting] its vast resources where it says its values lie. Due to years of incremental change, what was once a hopeful community of Black and brown parents has withered to an overall feeling of pessimism; change has been promised before, yet the effects have not been far reaching.”13

  • Interviewees who had participated in previous equity work expressed frustration that “these types of initiatives did not often follow through…. Participants [wondered] how this current Building Equity Bridges Project was any different from previous efforts.”14

  • In the words of community members: “We need to be honest with ourselves about [inequity]. We need an internal reckoning about who we are, who we say we are, what we do, and what we are prepared to do.” “I want to see us be honest with ourselves... that, yes, Cambridge is a great place to work, to live, and to go to school; but it does not always feel that way for everyone.”15

Students, families, and educators have essential expertise and powerful visions for building equity in Cambridge. This is particularly true among people of color.16

  • Our schools “need to make every child feel important, heard, supported, and celebrated.”17

  • Educators of color are developing a pathway program for CPS students of color to become educators. They recommend that this program focus on: student mentorship; concrete experiences and practice; and goals of “equity, representation, and meaningful employment.”18

  • In one CPAR study, over 60 educators of color shared input about what it would look like to make their “dream schools” a reality. “The schools that educators of color imagine are reflections of their identities, experiences, and capacities.”19

CPAR Preliminary Themes & Recommendations
2 Principals’ Input and Reflections
3 Educators of Color Sense-Making Team Narrative
4 For additional evidence, see the “People of Color are Not Being Centered” barrier
5 CPAR Preliminary Themes
6 Focus Group Report
7 Focus Group Report
8 For evidence, see “Existing Structures and Practices Perpetuate Inequity”
9 Focus Group Report
10 Principals’ Input and Reflections
11 Principals’ Input and Reflections
12 For evidence, see “Existing Structures and Practices Perpetuate Inequity”
13 Educators of Color Sense-Making Team Narrative
14 Focus Group Report
15 Interview quote, Focus Group Report
16 For evidence, see “People of Color are Not Being Centered” barrier
17 American-Born Black community member quote, CPAR Study 6
18 CPAR Study 4
19 CPAR Study 8

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