MCS Takes Steps to Improve Equity & Inclusion

MCS Takes Additional Steps to Improve Equity & Inclusion
Posted on 05/01/2018

Diversity is one of the essential values of our school district. We serve a thriving, vibrant community of diverse neighbors. And we believe that we can make the biggest difference in students’ lives when we create a culture of equity and inclusion -- where all learners are seen, valued, cared for and respected as their full selves. 

To achieve that goal, all our staff members--teachers, administrators, and support personnel--need to be culturally competent and prepared to intentionally support a more inclusive climate.

This school year, we took a number of actions to improve equity and inclusion at Mason City Schools. 

Engaging all staff members in deeper learning about culturally responsive practices

~Revitalized five building-level equity teams of teachers and administrators charged with leading this work
~Required implicit bias training to help teachers understand their own biases
~Engaged every teacher in ongoing conversations with colleagues around “heart work”--knowing our students well
Following the trainings, teachers shared, “it has made me want to have deeper conversations about students’ backgrounds and incorporate those into our class.” . “I became more aware of ‘judgmental’ moments in the classroom.”

Committing to a set of culturally responsive practices that cross grade levels and subjects
~Identified a research-based list of classroom practices for responsiveness and equity
~Surveyed every staff member to determine the practices they see as most important, those that need greater emphasis, and those that they use with confidence
~Followed up the survey with focus group interviews to get the perspectives of diverse subgroups
~Used the survey results to develop a long-term professional learning plan
Teachers have shared, “I tried harder this year to ask culturally sensitive questions in my classroom. Not assuming, but asking and listening.” “I am now thinking about how to incorporate inclusive resources on a regular basis.”

Clarifying our professional responsibilities in the face of bias, discrimination & harassment
~Developed a one-page Mason Employees Code of Conduct
~Explicitly outlined administrative procedures for dealing with bias, discrimination, & harassment complaints

Building a culturally competent staff
~Developed long-term plans for the recruitment & retention of a diverse staff
~Engaged social studies teacher leaders in assessing curriculum, instructional materials, and instruction for cultural responsiveness

We recognize that building a culture that embraces diversity can be challenging. It means we need to personally address the ways our behaviors can be influenced by unconscious bias, even when we don’t intend to be prejudicial. Sometimes overt racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, religious bias and bias against people with disabilities is a reflection of what is going on in the world outside our schools.

Regardless of the circumstances, we share a long-term commitment to sustain our work in building an equitable and inclusive learning environment for our students.

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