New review highlights DEIJ importance in public education
Insights focus on benefits of DEIJ initiatives for students and teachers
Continuing its series of work focused on education, the NH Center for Justice & Equity (NHCJE) has released a literature review — an overview of the previously published works on a topic in a scholarly report — shedding light on the significance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice (DEIJ) efforts in public education in New Hampshire.
The report, titled “The Belonging Case for Diversity,” provides new insights into the multiple ways a focus on diversity in education benefits students and society. The findings of this literature review will serve as a new resource for educators, policymakers and stakeholders in the education sector, underlining the urgency of advancing DEIJ efforts in public schools in New Hampshire. It can focus efforts to embrace diversity, foster inclusion and promote justice in order to create a more equitable and enriching educational experience for all students in the Granite State.
This resource aligns with Governor Chris Sununu’s recent proclamation making September Welcoming Schools Month in New Hampshire with the intention of fostering a more inclusive atmosphere within schools. The state’s attorney general’s office said that the aim is to cultivate a culture of belonging, where students are encouraged to engage in constructive dialogues and where the celebration of diversity is at the forefront. The proclamation says that “racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic and xenophobic incidents and other bias-related and harmful and hurtful behaviors have no place in our schools.”
Authored by Dr. Jacob A. Bennett, hearing officer and program liaison at Dartmouth College, “The Belonging Case for Diversity” literature review underscores the critical need for DEIJ initiatives in public schools, especially in the face of recent attacks and discriminatory labeling of these efforts. It highlights that, while the state of New Hampshire has made progress by creating dedicated DEIJ positions in four public school districts since 2021, there is a growing trend across the country to undermine and restrict such initiatives. Dr. Bennett outlines and explains three distinct but interrelated rationales for focusing on diversity efforts: the legal case, the business case and the belonging case.
In the literature review, Dr. Bennett presents a meticulous methodology, reviewing conceptualizations of diversity and providing a summary of relevant peer-reviewed literature on diversity in public education. The author analyzes position descriptions for DEIJ officials in New Hampshire, examining both the opportunities and challenges faced by these officials in their crucial roles.
Dr. Bennett’s research offers a consensus on the definition of diversity, encompassing characteristics such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, language and physical ability. This shared understanding serves as a foundation for the importance of diversity in promoting cultural, economic, and social vitality and innovation in New Hampshire.
The literature review also delves into the legal aspects of diversity in education. It emphasizes the historical significance of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause, which has been instrumental in upholding the value of diversity. While recent Supreme Court decisions have raised concerns about the future of affirmative action, the report highlights the overwhelming support from numerous amicus briefs filed in favor of diversity as a compelling state interest. These briefs include representatives from educational institutions, major corporations and legislators.
Dr. Bennett’s literature review goes on to shed light on the transformative power of Culturally Relevant/Sustaining Pedagogy (CRSP). This approach to teaching, derived from the work of Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, aims to address the persistent educational disparities faced by marginalized students, particularly Black students, by centering their cultural experiences and fostering equitable learning environments.
The report also highlights the need for a diverse and inclusive teaching corps. According to the Urban Institute’s research, a significant majority of Black, Hispanic and Asian teachers enter the profession through alternative pathways, rather than traditional teaching degree programs.
To address this disparity and increase teacher diversity, the report discusses “Grow Your Own” (GYO) initiatives such as the successful apprenticeship model in Tennessee. By providing innovative, no-cost pathways to the teaching profession and hands-on work experiences, GYO programs enable aspiring educators from underrepresented communities to enter the field.
Recognizing that lasting change requires organizational transformation, the report looks at the concept of shared equity leadership. Derived from previous research, shared equity leadership emphasizes collective responsibility for equity and shared values among stakeholders at all levels. The model’s three major components include a critical mass of individuals committed to equity, shared values among leadership teams, and a set of practices that foster just and equitable conditions.
By encouraging broad participation and embracing individual differences, shared equity leadership creates a sense of belonging and empowers leaders to lean into their strengths while supporting colleagues’ growth in areas where they may have less facility.
Dr. Bennett’s report concludes by emphasizing the continuous growth and improvement inherent in culturally relevant/sustaining pedagogy, highlighting the need to adapt and evolve in response to the persistent challenges faced by marginalized students in New Hampshire.
This first of its kind review provides insights and recommendations for educators, policymakers and stakeholders invested in achieving educational equity. By centering the voices, experiences and cultural identities of marginalized students, Culturally Relevant/Sustaining Pedagogy and shared equity leadership offer avenues to transform education and empower all learners.
The literature review calls for a re-evaluation of current challenges and opportunities in DEIJ work at the district level in New Hampshire. It proposes exploring disability inclusion in diversity efforts, promoting non-traditional pathways to increase teacher diversity, and reimagining organizational structures and cultures for lasting change.
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