For the fourth year in a row, the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA), Association of Washington School Principals (AWSP) and Washington School Administrators Association (WASA) jointly organized a one-day conference focused on educational equity. In early feedback, attendees have described the event as energizing, supercharging, and thought-provoking.
One of the biggest catalysts of the day was keynote speaker Dr. Jeffery Duncan-Andrade, Associate Professor of Raza Studies and Education Administration and Interdisciplinary Studies at San Francisco State University. A long-time educator in Oakland public schools, he delivered a powerfully sincere presentation supported by abundant research from multiple fields of study. Central to his message was the statement that providing an equal education is not working in a society rife with inequality. For evidence of inequality, Duncan-Andrade cited an increasing income gap, incarceration rate, high school drop-out rate for low-income students, and America’s plummeting rank on the World Peace Index. Instead, he asserted, the solution is forging an equitable education system based on empathy, fostering connectedness/relationships, ensuring students’ basic needs are met as defined by Abraham Maslow, and by creating environments that affirm the identity, heritage and communities from which students come. Without taking those steps, said Duncan-Andrade, students will not be able to self-actualize and become successful in school or life.
The keynote presentation had several quotable soundbites. To cite just a few: “Everybody is an equity officer, or nobody is an equity officer;” “if you are thinking about pushing into equity, then this will not be a soft pivot;” “everywhere you serve, you are on indigenous land. And if you think that you are going to do the sacred work of caring for the babies on someone else’s land without acknowledging that you are on their land, you are kidding yourself.” In other words, acknowledging history and acknowledging contemporary conditions were described as precursors to establishing authentic, empathetic relationships with students. Without those relationships, Duncan-Andrade said, success will not happen for students or educators.
In addition to the keynote, more than 20 other presentations were given by educators, administrators, and consultants from around the state and Canada. Presenters shared hard lessons and valuable successes in the quest to serve each and every student. To find presenter materials and learn more about the conference, visit wssda.org/equityconference.