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A commitment to equity and closing the achievement gap is at the center of our work at CenterPoint. We believe that opportunity starts in the classroom, so we work hand in hand with educators and district and school leaders to prepare all students for college and career readiness. In practice, that means giving educators great tools, resources, training so they can engage students in deep, meaningful work based on real world problems and rigorous texts that are important to our country and reflect current civil discourse. As we often say in education reform circles, zip codes shouldn’t dictate how challenging the curriculum is, what books kids read, and what problems they solve.
As CEO of CenterPoint, I believe it is important to practice what we preach in our own workplace. Over the past three months we have brought these two concepts together and formalized a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program. We explore diverse perspectives from an anti-bias stance and with a bent towards social justice. At a high level, the goal of these discussions is to actively engage in exploration of different perspectives to promote an inclusive work community where all employees are respected, valued, and welcomed as participants in intellectual exploration and discussion. At an even more macro level, I hope the discussions will be part of a much broader body of work being advanced by a number of education organizations that contributes to reducing bias and prejudice in our communities and schools so that we continue to build a more equitable society.
The goal for these discussions is to help us “lean into” the value of diversity and the importance of equity – and help inspire us to be agents of change in our own lives. The discussions are always grounded in a shared experience (e.g., a reading, a video, a panel) and are discussion based. As a former high school English teacher, I’ve welcomed the challenge of finding texts that speak to our times and that will push our team to courageous conversations. I engage our staff in the process of selecting the materials to ensure that what we read, watch, and listen to reflects the diverse perspectives of our community.
So here is what we have been reviewing recently as part of our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program:
We launched this recent series of conversations with a TED talk called “The Danger of A Single Story,” from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian writer of novels, short stories, and nonfiction. In 2008, she was awarded a MacArthur Genius Grant.
The next month, we read the poem A House Divided by Kyle Dargan and paired it with the speech by Abraham Lincoln with the same name: http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/house.htm
In January, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., we read two pieces: A Call for Unity and Letter from Birmingham Jail. http://www.newseum.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/education_resources_letterfrombirminghamjail.pdf
The conversations have been emotional and inspirational. We are learning a lot about each other and our different experiences. And it’s been interesting to see my fellow former teachers spring into action to bring the conversation back to the text when we stray.
We are doing this monthly, and I plan to share the full series at the end of the year. I welcome you to join the conversation through social media or by sharing what you are reading on this topic and what you.
Written by: Laura Slover, CEO of CenterPoint Education Solutions