Instructional Equity Coaches Reflect on District's Work To Create Equity In Excellence
October 4, 2019
In the Wauwatosa School District, we believe ALL kids can excel. Over the last several years, we’ve been working to put action to those words as we strive toward equity in excellence.
We’ve added a Supervisor of Equity, built an Equity Team, developed and began implementation of an Equity Plan that has included adding new classes like Black Literature and one of two all-inclusive AP Human Geography courses in the country as we remove barriers to rigor.
We’ve had all 800+ members of staff go through training on implicit and explicit biases. We’ve learned from and worked with experts in the field of equity, fostered mentorship groups for students including the African American Male and African American Female Initiatives, The Cultural Alliance for Students and more. We're a founding member of the Closing the Achievement Gap Consortium, which has grown to dozens of districts across the region working together toward equity in excellence.
There is more that we have done, and yet, we feel like we’re just getting started. There is a momentum building and it is exciting. We know that we are all better when we all excel at high levels.
So as we continue our work toward equity in excellence, we want to bring you behind the scenes to hear and see how those efforts are making a difference in the classroom.
This school year marks the third year that we’ve had staff dedicated to helping our teachers work through a lens of equity. Our team of Instructional Equity Coaches consists of experienced classroom teachers who have moved away from full-time teaching to work directly with other teachers and help them improve their practice, through professional development, classroom observations and post-observation conversations, helping plan improvement plans and more.
This month we’re introducing you to two of our Instructional Equity Coaches.
Michael Brock is a former fifth-grade teacher who became one of the District’s first teachers to transition into the Instructional Equity Coach role in the 2017-2018 school year. Michael works with elementary teachers, students, and administrators.
And, Jae Henderson previously taught STEM at Longfellow Middle School and is now in his second year as an Instructional Equity Coach working at West High School.
We asked both team members to help us understand what a day in their role looks like, and how they’ve seen the District’s focus on equity making a difference.
How do the District's Equity Coaches support teachers on a daily basis? What's a day on the job look like?
Jae Henderson: Equity Coaches work to create more Culturally Responsive and equitable communities for all of our students. Every day can look different as Equity Coaches often juggle multiple projects and assignments at one time. United with teachers and building staff, Equity Coaches collaborate and plan with content teams, help establish and monitor professional goals, observe classrooms to offer feedback, and support District and building administration in implementing initiatives and systems of support for all children in our care.
Michael Brock: I spend a lot of time in classrooms working with teachers and students. Our collective goal is to figure out how to create a learning environment that meets the needs of ALL of our students. Collaborating and planning with teachers is at the heart of this work. I work in five different elementary schools, so I travel from school to school during the day. I have never had a “typical” day on the job! Every day and every school is different, which makes the job unique and exciting.
The District added this position a couple of years ago now. How have you seen it make an impact in the classroom and specifically, on student learning?
Jae Henderson: Last year, Equity Coaches at all levels worked to deliver and support Professional Development on Trauma-Sensitive Schools and Trauma-Informed Care. From this, I have seen a direct impact on our overall awareness and recognition of students who may have been exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences. Because of this heightened awareness, in 2018-19 our District significantly reduced the overall number of discipline referrals in both of our high schools. I believe our Trauma-Sensitive Schools and Trauma-Informed Care initiative created environments where all staff are now more responsive to the needs of our students. Additionally, our discipline referral data last year highlights the impact of our overall efforts to foster a greater sense of belonging for all of our students, which we know is an essential component to student learning.
Michael Brock: In the last 3 years, we have come a long way on our journey towards providing equitable education. The biggest impact I have seen is that as an entire District, we have become more aware of some of the less obvious barriers that stand in the way of many of our student’s success. This awareness has enabled us to start to plan ways to remove these obstacles for our students.
What do you feel is the most important aspect of your work as an Equity Coach?
Jae Henderson: I believe that the most important aspect of my work is connecting our equity work and our District's mission to the daily work in our buildings. An essential part of my work is helping our staff understand their role in what we are trying to accomplish.
Michael Brock: The relationships that we build with teachers, students and families is the most important aspect of our work. We help facilitate change by building relationships and trust with our stakeholders, which enables us to work together to create impactful solutions to equity issues.
How do Equity Coaches who work with our teachers throughout the day set us apart from other Districts?
Jae Henderson: I do not know of another District that has a similar model to support teachers in this work. I believe the Wauwatosa School District is truly a leader in this area. Having Equity Coaches in our schools working directly with teachers on a daily basis creates a shared sense of ownership and responsibility. We work together in teams to solve the problem. I believe we can accomplish more together through this model of providing direct support to our buildings and classrooms.
Michael Brock: Wauwatosa is ahead of the curve when it comes to the focus on equity. The District has committed resources to provide building-level support in all the Wauwatosa schools. I am not aware of any other school district in Southeastern Wisconsin that is putting this much effort into their equity work.
Anything else you want us to know?
Jae Henderson: I sincerely appreciate all of the work that our teachers have taken on. I understand that we ask our teachers to reflect, learn more, and continuously improve. I want our teachers to know that all of their efforts on the frontline are what creates the necessary change. ALL of their efforts and hard work are truly appreciated!