• by Bradley Scott, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • November – December 2014 •
The South Central Collaborative for Equity (SCCE) has been able to support many school systems as they have worked to assure the protection of civil rights for students in public schools. This work has taken many forms including working directly with students in student leadership skills building, reducing racial and sexual harassment and bullying in schools, student engagement including developing student voice, and most importantly building academic strength and capacity in core content subject areas to produce greater school success. The SCCE has worked with administrators, teachers, parents and community people to strengthen academic and pedagogical practice on the part of educators or, on the part of parents and community stakeholders, increase leadership and advocacy capacity to support success for all learners. It is clear that some of the most rewarding work the SCCE has undertaken over the years has been its work with boards of education.
The SCCE has been able to work successfully with five school districts to create or revise critical policy concerns to ensure the protection of students’ civil rights in several critical areas. This work was essential to establish the proper foundation for appropriate administrative action to occur in schools and classrooms of the districts in question. Some quick examples of this important governance work will demonstrate how critical this aspect of school change and reform can be, as reflected in the IDRA Quality Schools Action Framework. (Robledo Montecel, 2005)
An Arkansan district is seeking unitary status after years of desegregation and supervision by the court. The district is about to petition the court to receive unitary status in the area of student discipline. The district is currently gathering evidence of the sound, good faith work it has undertaken to address the issue of over-representation of African American boys in disciplinary actions including suspensions and expulsions. A major portion of its good faith work is centered around the efforts of the school board to create new policy reflected in a revised student code of conduct, the approval of fiscal resources to elevate the capacity of staff to implement new disciplinary approaches in schools and classrooms, and the fiscal resources required to implement new programs such as “From the Heart” and “Why Try.”
Two parishes in Louisiana have also had to revise policy and reflect the revisions in new student codes of conduct and personnel policies regarding employee recruitment and hiring and practices.
A district in Oklahoma has created a new civil rights plan to ensure the protection of equal educational opportunity for English Learners. While a major portion of the plan is focused on appropriate educational responses for these learners, the board had to commit resources, staff, and restructured policy to ensure the plan’s success.
In each of these instances it is a matter of the sound governance that must drive the actions of districts. The fundamentals of governance efficacy and fair, appropriate, equitable funding must be assured to guarantee the protection of civil rights for all learners. The SCCE has operated with the boards of these districts, as it does with all districts, with the view that boards of education and the governance they provide must:
- Proactively protect and guarantee the civil rights of all learners
- Build and articulate a vision of success and college going
- Define and reflect the equity context as a basis for supporting student success
- Create a dynamic communicative environment that courageously challenges inequities
- Conduct on going equity-based environmental scanning to assure every student’s civil rights protection
- Support the implementation of competent curriculum and relevant pedagogy which is highly responsive to all diverse learners
- Keep stakeholders informed, involved, engaged and trained in the skills and competencies to sustain effective school reform.
Good governance, sound governance is clearly essential to the students’ civil rights protection.
Montemayor, A.M. “Stop the Merry-go-Round, Children Might Fall Off! – Parents as Stewards of Governance for School Reform that Supports Educational Equity,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, June-July 2007).
Robledo, Montecel, M. “A Quality Schools Action Framework – Framing Systems Change for Student Success,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, November-December 2005).
Rodríguez, R.G., and A. Villarreal. “School Boards Come of Age with a 21st Century Vision,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, November-December 2013).
Rodríguez, R.G., and A. Villarreal. “Student Voice – A Key Element in Effective School Governance and Accountability,” IDRA Newsletter (San Antonio, Texas: Intercultural Development Research Association, June-July 2012).
Bradley Scott, Ph.D., is a senior education associate and director of the IDRA South Central Collaborative for Equity. Comments and questions may be directed to him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[©2014, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the November-December 2014 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]