Teachstone applauds the removal of three Confederate statues in Charlottesville, VA. Our organization is headquartered in this Southern city and we have seen first-hand the visceral reaction evoked by these tributes to figureheads of the Lost Cause movement. While the cause of the Confederacy in the Civil War has been lost, the war on racism has not yet been won.
It was only four years ago when hundreds of white supremacists stormed the streets of Charlottesville and the campus of the University of Virginia for the Unite the Right Rally. We watched in horror as these events unfolded in our community and mourned the death of Heather Heyer. Some of our employees knew and loved her personally.
In 2020, the deaths of Ahmaud Abery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement and vigilantes reminded Teachstone that America has a long way to go when it comes to race relations.
As a team, we reflected deeply on our company, our work, and the impact we could make.
How could we become a more equitable company? How could we change our behaviors to promote a future in which all children achieve the fullness of their potential?
We started by orienting the company to a new North star - a mission and core values centered on helping each and every child reach their full potential. We became a certified B-Corporation, a designation awarded to businesses that represent the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. And, we developed a DEI committee and instituted DEI learning sessions and group discussions across the organization.
We are placing equity at the core of our work.
In addition to these internal efforts, we also realized that we needed to build a deeper understanding of the needs of the educators we serve. Only through a clear understanding can we improve on our offerings and create new solutions that promote more equitable learning experiences.
To that end, we took several actions. We started by launching the CLASS Advisory Council, a diverse group of leaders from across the field who regularly convene to provide invaluable feedback on how our tools and trainings are being used in various settings. We also organized statewide listening sessions to hear from educators in states across the country. Through the course of these listening sessions, we heard from hundreds of administrators, coaches, observers, and teachers.
We also recently launched a Community of Practice for leaders who influence educational systems at a state level. The intent of this group is to learn from one another, to discuss the challenges we, as a community, face that limit equity and to discuss paths forward in creating more equitable systems.
We will soon launch a Dual Language Learner advisory panel to help us understand the unique needs of DLL learners and how we might better support them.
Our learnings have led us to pursue new solutions specifically designed to reduce bias and inequitable practices. We recognize that assessment data is only as fair as the individual collecting it. We need to do more to teach observers about bias and how to mitigate bias when observing. We are committed to supporting observers, teachers, coaches, and leaders who work in a wide variety of settings and with diverse populations. There is much more to come.
While we are proud of the strides we have made at Teachstone in the diversity, equity and inclusion space, we know that more needs to be done.
We recognize the inequities that exist in the education landscape, particularly for Black and Latinx children and children living in poverty. And, we recognize the inequities of support for those educators who serve these children. We believe we are uniquely situated to help solve one critical element of this large educational crisis - the inequities in children’s classroom experiences that are a major driver of gaps in the learning and developmental outcomes.
Through a deeper understanding of the needs of every child and every educator, we will work with greater clarity to create equity across every classroom. We will create and deliver tools to strengthen anti-racism skills and to identify and address our own biases. We will ensure effective observation practices across a variety of settings. And, we will find innovative ways to provide greater access to trainings and programs that improve teacher-student interactions. This work will help ensure that we consider individualized experiences and support every child in gaining the skills needed to thrive in school and in life.
Yes, the removal of Confederate statues across the country suggests that America is beginning to reckon with a painful past. However, the war on racism is not over.
We ask you, our partners in this work, to push our thinking on our products and services. Continue to challenge us to remain committed to the fight for racial justice and to live up to our stated values. Only then, will we together do all within our power to ensure that equity is achieved for all children in all types of educational settings.
At Teachstone, we talk to a lot of educators. From coast to coast and around the globe, there’s a common thread that unites them: wanting to be better for their students.
Even when things are tough in education, even in years made even more challenging by the pandemic and its effects on teaching and learning, educators are striving to be their best. That dedication to equitable, ongoing development is what inspires Teachstone’s work. To reach the day when all children are afforded excellent education and care, it’s going to take a systematic, data-driven approach, and we are enthusiastic partners in getting there.
By the end of every summer, the education world erupts with talk about back-to-school. This year was no different. The air was full of optimism. Vaccines had rolled out, many of us took our first vacation in a year and a half, and my inbox was full of the “best back to school” sales. Sadly, as quickly as many schools welcomed children back into the classroom with open arms, they were forced to close again due to increases in COVID-19 infections.
Admins, teachers, students, and families alike may be feeling concerned, cautiously optimistic, pessimistic, or confused. If you’re like me, you might feel all of the above all at once. But, I am taking comfort in knowing that this year, we are armed with more data.
Knowing that approximately 25% of children under 5 come from homes where Spanish is the predominant language spoken, we were pleased that Lisa White, a researcher at American Institutes for Research, was willing to speak with us about her study that compared the CLASS with the CASEBA, a tool designed to assess quality in classrooms serving dual language learners. To learn more, read on!
The time has come for hard conversations.
That’s the feedback we have been receiving from educators across the country. There are plenty of tough conversations educators are trained, taught, or feel equipped to handle with children and families - gently bringing up a developmental concern, facilitating a disagreement between students, or explaining what happened with the classroom goldfish are all part of a day in the life. But in the last year, since the killing of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police, educators are increasingly asking for help in communicating more comfortably with young children about diversity and difference.