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DCSC: Creating anti-racist and liberatory practices at intentionally diverse schools

Charter School Capital

February 5, 2021


Diverse Charter Schools Coalition

The Diverse Charter Schools Coalition is a national association of 190 racially, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse student populations. Their goal: Band together these diverse populations with a focus on intentional diversity and inclusion.

We had the pleasure and honor to attend this year’s Converging of Diverse Schools Coalition – Interrupting Equity – named “Creating anti-racist and liberatory practices at intentionally diverse schools.”

The Keynote Speaker was activist, educator, and writer Brittany Packnett Cunningham. Brittany is a former teacher, education leader, and fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics.

The convening split its agenda into four tracks: Academics, Community, Culture, and Operations. We found the schedule of this conference comprehensive, and it was great to have the ability to choose from these various tracks. The sessions themselves were so content-rich that it was hard to decide what to attend.

Under Academics, there were sessions on grading, AP courses, and removing barriers that perpetuate inequity in learning. Under Community, sessions dived deep into the definition of Diversity, disrupting the opportunity gap, and communal classrooms. Under culture, the sessions focused on shifting mindsets, restorative circles to build community, staff culture, and creating an authentic and inclusive community. Under operations, the focus was on centering BIPOC, along with time management and distribution.

One thing that struck us was the school visits. These were breakout sessions where the convening’s guests got to witness virtual classrooms and environments at six intentionally-diverse schools. The vulnerability displayed by the schools, and the teachers themselves, was remarkable. They invited us to watch, critique, and discuss. It was a commendable example of transparency and a fantastic opportunity to assess, ponder and learn.

The schools delved into their intentional cultures, including their “crews,” which might be comparable to homerooms but with a heavy diversity focus. One school had different cohorts of second-graders through fifth-graders, where they tackled a curriculum focusing on racial equity. One group created a poem and a quilt for Black History Month.

It was beneficial for the teachers to be able to compare approaches. We watched videos of schools engaging in virtual teaching, and we had honest discussions as to what seemed to be working well and where there might have been room for improvement.

During these visits, we were particularly impressed with the Yu Ming Charter School of Oakland, CA, a Mandarin-language immersion school with a highly diverse student population.

This K-8 charter school won the Diverse School award for the year. It’s easy to see why this charter school has a 500-person waiting list.

The Convening also organized three affinity groups, including a healing & solidarity space for Black participants, a healing & solidarity space for Non-Black People of Color, and an awareness & accountability space for White participants.

The conference’s sponsors included the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, PANORAMA Education, The Walton Family Foundation, the Cohen-Schneider Law firm, the NWEA, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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