Building Equitable Practices in Schools in the Midst of COVID-19

Equity in a school building doesn’t just happen, it is purposefully cultivated. Here's how educators across the country are doing just that.

By Team XQ

Last spring, the global pandemic interrupted schools and brought concerns over equity to the forefront of education discourse. The shift to remote and hybrid learning highlighted inequitable truths and provided a chance to rethink equitable practices—ones that recenter relationships, reinvent how they use time, and focus on deep learning experiences.

Equity in a school building doesn’t just happen, it is purposefully cultivated. 

As part of a panel hosted by the 2020 Aurora Institute Symposium, leaders from several XQ schools shared their ideas and practices on “How Intentional Equity Serves All Students.” The panel included incredible leaders from four XQ schools across America and offered clear takeaways for how to build equity into your remote and hybrid learning models. We wanted to extend the lessons from this workshop to those who attended and anyone else interested in being more intentional about building equitable practices.

Tips for Building and Maintaining Relationships with Students

Building caring relationships with students in a time when our regular social infrastructure is critical to the success of all students. 

  • Explain and reiterate that this is a mutual experience to create a commonality within the school community, including and especially with families
  • Ensure every student has at least one adult responsible and point-person for their academic and social wellbeing 
  • Leverage tools like Brooklyn Lab’s Success Coaching Playbook to embrace strength-based mindsets that cultivate motivation and engagement in academics
  • Reduce the advisor-to-student ratio to create close relationships in group settings quickly
  • Expand the advisory model to span multiple grades as a way to facilitate relationships between incoming students and upperclassmen 
  • Follow up daily—or multiple times a day—with students who have individualized education plans and may need help navigating complicated schedules 

Focuses on What Matters Most in Virtual and In-Person Classrooms

  • Focus on depth over breadth—challenge teachers to break away from traditional pressures and timelines to go in-depth on specific content.
  • Create work time throughout the virtual school day to give students an opportunity to concentrate on school work
  • Allow students to engage in different learning models—including whole group sessions and smaller group learning opportunities—and provide options when possible
  • Hold virtual office hours so students can access staff members regularly
  • Leverage technology, including social media, to expand access to professionals and experts in diverse fields for students 

Learn More From XQ School Leaders Who Are Committed to Equity 

Eric Collazo

Principal, Washington Leadership Academy

Eric is passionate about creating more equitable urban education. He mentors students and develops effective teachers in order to benefit the greater community. Eric attended the College of the Holy Cross. After graduating, Eric joined Teach For America. While teaching, Eric attended American University and earned a Master of Arts in Teaching. He now serves as the principal of Washington Leadership Academy.

Lillian Hsu

Principal, Latitude High School 

Lillian’s work is rooted in the belief that all students are capable of doing incredible things when given the right opportunity and support. Lillian has worked in a variety of educational settings such as Teacher Magazine and the television show Sesame Street. Lillian earned her B.A. in psychology from Yale University, her Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, and her Master’s in Education in School Leadership from the High Tech High Graduate School of Education.

Andy MacMannis

Assistant Head of School and Special Education Director, Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts

Andy MacMannis has been at TAPA since 2010 and currently serves as assistant head of school and special education director. These jobs entail overseeing support services like special education, TAPA’s Title One programming, and all after-school programming. He also handles all fund development initiatives and “big-picture” planning, such as the management of TAPA XQ + RI. Prior to TAPA, Andy attended Providence College, majoring in Elementary and Special Education. While at PC, he worked for the YouthRAP after-school program in Providence. From there, he attended Brown University, where he received a Master’s degree in Urban Education Policy. 

Bennison Ntsakey

Director of Academics at Brooklyn Laboratory Schools

Bennison is a school leader who is driven by results that transform lives in the 21st century. He’s eager and wants to ensure that all of his learners master the skills needed to excel in college and their professional lives as ethical leaders. Bennison attended Syracuse University and earned a Master of Education in School Leadership Design from Columbia University. 

Additional Resources about Equity and Education 

As we constantly say, we are better when we work together. We are deeply committed to building and sharing resources from schools across the country. Check out these additional resources to learn how to build an equitable practice in your school both in a remote setting and a hybrid one: 

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