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.
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We are back with another great episode of Impacting the Classroom. In this episode, our host Marnetta speaks to Keami Harris, the Chief Equity and Strategy Officer at the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, and Dr. William Johnson, the Director of Educational Strategy at the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund. Together, they dive into the history of early childcare and how to support a more equitable system.
You can listen to today's episode here or read the transcript below.
State policymakers have an exciting opportunity to level the playing field for early childhood education with thoughtful system design using the newly released Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five, also known as PDG B-5. This grant provides funding to State early childhood agencies’ to strengthen early childhood systems. In particular, a portion of PDG B-5 funding is targeted for Renewal Grants—24 out of 25 eligible states are expected to be awarded funding for PDG B-5 Renewal Grants. These Renewal Grants will provide three consecutive years of funding to support activities and implementation in each state.
Moving towards a post-pandemic world, early childhood education is still in a fractured state of recovery. Numerous headlines define the inequitable foundation early childhood system is built on that limits educators’ capacity to thrive and impact children’s lives. Yet demand for early learning remains steadfast as families get back to routines in communities everywhere. How do policymakers start to level the playing field for early childhood programs with equitable policies while increasing access for families in need of high-quality care?