The past year has been a lot. Honestly, the past 400 years have been a lot. And I’m just tired. Being an educator is also tiring. My first year teaching aged me by at least 5 years. After a certain point, I didn’t want to do the math and know how much education aged me. I just knew that at some point, I became weary. And that I couldn’t keep feeling that way if I wanted to stay in this work.
Are you sick and tired of focusing on classroom management, staff vacancies, or hundreds of emails instead of focusing on instruction?
At Equitable Outcomes, we help school systems figure out how to create time by focusing on things that create access for Black children and eliminating things that don’t.
Are you sick and tired of wondering if you are complicit in racist outcomes for Black children?
Not with us! At Equitable Outcomes, we help system leaders gain clarity by developing a clear and concrete vision for what their specific school system needs in order to change instructional practices and create system-level access to grade level content for all Black children.
Are you sick and tired of worrying that you are going to burn out of the work you love doing before you’ve done what you came here to do?
Not today, Satan! One of our values is, “To own your worth, live your worth, and create space that protects your worth.” At Equitable Outcomes, we believe that what Black children don’t need is for you to become so overextended that it’s impossible for you to show up and advocate for them. That’s why we help you and your team intentionally create the conditions that will allow you to thrive and protect your capacity to sustain this work.
Do you want peace of mind knowing that the team that you lead is acting cohesively, on the same page, and focuses their actions on creating access to grade-level content?
In Equity Design School™,our signature partnership for school systems, we help school system leaders build buy-in by helping teams co-create the vision, design, and plan for creating access to grade-level content. This helps build authentic ownership in a decentralized way. (In other words, permission to stop worrying if anyone is undermining you!)
Do you want permission to act on what you know is right for Black children (and not what’s right for the system)?
We are so unapologetic about 1. Believing Knowing that all Black children can learn. 2. Believing Knowing that all Black Lives Matter. 3. In courageous honesty. Not only are these things embedded into everything that we do - it’s even on our website, that’s how seriously unapologetic we are about this. That means that when you bring Equitable Outcomes to your school system, we are Name It for you, so you don’t have to be the OG bad guy. Because reality is, it takes social capital to name these things as facts (which they are). So, save that social capital for changing your professional learning systems. Blame the “radical” ideas on Sable, (ex: “Well, Sable said teachers should unpack the test in advance, so….” - actual quote from actual client.) and let us be in your corner.
Equity is not hard. You, and all other decision makers, just need to choose it and the appropriate actions will follow. You’ve chosen equity. It’s your life’s work. But the rest of your school system is not ready yet… so you’re in this agonizing window waiting for them to catch up. You wait. And the Black children in your school system wait right alongside you.
Now, are you sick and tired of waiting for equitable outcomes for Black children?
And are you ready to start creating access for Black children across your entire school system today?
Then join us this week at our upcoming Free Masterclass: How to Disrupt 7 System-Level Barriers to Equity for Black Children on Saturday, May 8th at 10am PST/ 1pm EST. Sign up here!
We are both fighting to disrupt racist outcomes in education. In fact, we are joined by many educators and institutions in this fight. And even if some may not explicitly name themselves as a part of this movement for educational equity, almost no one would declare that they are against educational equity. And they certainly wouldn’t say that they are trying to create and perpetuate racist outcomes.
So then, how is it possible to have racism without racists? Especially when “they” is all of us?
How can we be producing racist outcomes if no one has a racist intention or a racist bone in their body?
Well, that's our unconscious bias, of course.
Here are some examples of racist actions.
Responding to student wrong answers by giving the right answer and moving on. Every. Single. Time.
Impact: Black children never have an opportunity to learn why their answers are wrong or the thought process to get to the right answer. Which means all Black children learn here is that they are wrong.
Lowering the lexile level of a text. By finding an easier text on the same topic. For the entire unit.
Impact: For several months, or the entire duration of the unit, Black children spend their instructional time on a text below grade level. Which means Black children lose the opportunity to grow towards grade level for several months.
Grouping students according to a diagnostic. For the entire quarter.
Impact: When Black students thrive, they lose an opportunity to be pushed. When Black students struggle, they lose an opportunity to be supported, according to their immediate, specific needs.
Accepting data analyses that site silly mistakes as the cause of a misconception. For a entire unit’s enduring understandings.
Impact: The true misconceptions demonstrated in student work are never uncovered. Which means Black children never get taught how to master content they showed they need help with.
Not pushing that teacher with fixed mindsets on what they are putting in front of their kids.
Impact: All 30 Black children (or 100 if middle school) in this teacher’s classroom, lose one year of grade-level education, making it harder to graduate with college and career readiness. The Black students in your school system are still expected to be college and career ready, even though they got less time.
The accumulation of these actions deny Black children access to an education that creates (and not limits) opportunities for them. In a society addicted to the myth of being a meritocracy, this is it’s own kind violence. Which kind of tracks, because our nation’s capacity to deny access and exclude Black people is historic and violent. Literally.
So what makes these actions racist? They produce an outcome, the denial of something (in this case, education that creates access) to Black children, that is racist. Periodt. And until our actions align with our intentions by producing equitable outcomes on a systems level, all of us, educators, school leaders, and system leaders alike, are responsible for the impact of unconscious bias in our professional learning and instructional planning structures. No, you didn’t put it there. But as long as it’s in the room, it’s your business to interrupt.
Want to know how to interrupt unconscious bias in your instructional planning structures? Learn more during our upcoming Free Masterclass: How to Disrupt 7 System-Level Barriers to Equity for Black Children on Saturday, May 8th at 10am PST/ 1pm EST. Sign up here!
Yes, I said what I said and stand by it! COVID 19 + virtual learning are not why there was so much (anticipated) learning loss in your school system this academic year.
You might be giving me some side eyes right now and thinking, but Sable, what about:
Access to internet access + 1-to-1 technology? How are kids supposed to learn without complete exposure to 100% of the curriculum?
Cameras being turned off on zoom… they are always off and my teachers are fighting kids to put them on. How are teachers supposed to give feedback without cameras? It’s like teaching into a void!
Virtual learning is less than in person learning. Period. There are so many instructional strategies we’ve lost access with the online classroom.
I hear you. And all of these things are 100% valid. And I have to reiterate that what you’ve pointed out has nothing to do with learning loss. Why?
On Internet access + Technology: When students were physically present in school buildings and had complete exposure to 100% of the curriculum because they were in school to learn it, we still had learning loss. And more often than not that learning loss was predictive by race. Don’t get me wrong -- Black children need access to the Internet and 1-to-1 technology to safely learn during this pandemic. AND… if schools have since figured out systems for creating access to the internet and 1-to-1 technology since the onslaught of the pandemic …. then what does that have to do with continuation of learning loss?
On cameras being turned off on zoom: When students were physically present in the school building, they had opportunities to express their understanding in a multitude of ways, some of which like written student work or listening to student discussions while circulating the classroom, didn’t even require seeing their faces 100% of the time. We don’t need to see student faces to give them feedback and teach them. It’s really, really, really nice. And wayyyyyy less awkward to facilitate, to have their cameras on. But those were feelings… being used to justify a lack of evidence of student learning and feedback….whatttt?
On virtual learning as a medium: Well, to learn means “to gain knowledge or skill by studying, practicing, being taught, or experiencing something”. It’s possible to gain knowledge or skill virtually. It’s possible to study virtually, practice virtually, and experience something virtually. Is it the same? Of course not. But is it possible? Definitely. How possible? Well, the e-learning industry is currently worth $5.16 billion dollars and is projected to be worth $25.33 billion dollars by 2025. That means that is $5 billion dollars of wealth generated all on the notion that virtual learning is possible. Yes there are systems that need to be put in place to make sure virtual learning can be facilitated smoothly. But how can you every create those systems if you’ve already decided that virtual learning is not possible?
Okay, Sable fine - COVID did not create system-wide student mastery. We were struggling to support Black children before the pandemic. So then what’s the real cause of all of that learning loss this year? And why did it get so bad?
Well, the opportunity gap. What’s the opportunity gap?
When “students spend most of the time in school without access to four key resources: grade-appropriate assignments, strong instruction, deep engagement, and teachers who hold high expectations.” (TNTP, 2018) And yes, in case you’re wondering this does disproportionately affect Black children. Which means yes, Black children spend a disproportionate amount of time in school without the resources they need to learn grade-level content. So they are left further and further behind….
The opportunity gap can happen virtually and in person learning. Because teachers still made those decisions about how much grade level content kids should have access to during the pandemic. And that’s what’s been causing the learning loss in your school system, prior, during, even possibly after we’ve recovered from the pandemic.
If you don’t want the opportunity gap to continue beyond the pandemic…
If you don’t want to go back to normal, because you know that our “normal” was inequity for Black children…
You have to disrupt unconscious bias in all of your instructional decision making processes. There’s no if, ands, or buts about it. Seriously. Can you imagine actually creating equitable outcomes for Black children with unconscious bias embedded into your school system? Right. That sounds ridiculous, because it is. Which means that the barriers created by unconscious bias, and all the other things, have got to go. On site.
Want to know how to disrupt these barriers? Learn more during our upcoming Free Masterclass: How to Disrupt 7 System-Level Barriers to Equity for Black Children on Saturday, May 8th at 10am PST/ 1pm EST. Sign up here!
“My kids just can’t handle it. I know them.”
Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before.
Now keep your hand raised if when you heard this, it was being used as a rationale for why Black children won’t be receiving or accessing grade level content.
The problem with this? Several.
The obvious: The person who said this has made a decision about what content to put in front of Black children. And you might not know how to push back in a way that reengages this person into making a different decision, because the reason they used was tied to her deep knowledge of her students, which you feel like you can’t speak against. Because you don’t know their students well enough or even at all -- so who are you to invalidate that? But why does it still feel off? And why don’t you know how to address it? Because of the not so obvious…
The not so obvious: That statement was rife with yucky racial undertones of normalized underachievement of Black students as innate and inevitable. How can you change anything that is innate or inevitable? You can’t - that’s the point! It’s paternalism thinly veiled as compassion. Why? It’s implied that omitting that grade level content is essentially an act of kindness. Because any kind of academic struggle that does not immediately lead to the right answer will just cause the confidence + self-esteem of Black children to be decimated when they realize just how much they don’t know or are never capable of knowing. In essence, the person who said this believes that they are protecting Black children when they remove their access to grade-level content and their chance ever be on grade level. If you are wondering if that feels anti-Black, it is. Anything that reinforces ideas about Black inferiority is anti-Black, racist, white supremacy in action, all of the things.
So how do you coach someone with all of the obvious + not so obvious problems now in the room?
Take x answers off the table as a valid + acceptable rationale for major instructional decisions. Or any.
Only accept observable, recent, and relevant evidence of student learning as a reason or rationale.
And make life easier by designing your professional learning structures in a way that requires teachers to use observable, recent, and relevant evidence of student learning to make instructional decisions. Periodt.
Want to know how to stop letting unconscious/ veiled racist ideas about what Black children can do decide what they ever have access to under your watch? Learn more during our upcoming Free Masterclass: How to Disrupt 7 System-Level Barriers to Equity for Black Children on Saturday, May 8th at 10am PST/ 1pm EST. Sign up here!
After all the content training + shifts to research-backed, Tier 1 curriculum, this small district still wasn’t seeing the results that they wanted to see. Instructional practices and student mastery were not changing at scale.
In order to be able to generate solutions, the Department of Curriculum & Instruction team in this district had to look at this problem differently.
This difference required a paradigm shift.
And I had to facilitate it.
How do I get a team of overextended administrators with a million and one priorities to slow down, and focus on just one thing? How do I get this team to channel their energy + resources towards this one thing?
Show them how this one thing connects to all of their other concerns and competing priorities.
How do I do this without being condescending or presumptuous?
Create a space that allows them to confront this one thing.
While centering their knowledge about their own school district?
Set up a structure that requires them to choose AND create that one thing.
While creating buy-in?
Get input from all key stakeholders while vigorously addressing conflicting ideas and any dissent.
At Equitable Outcomes, we call this process the “Design It” phase of our work. With space to think deeply and holistically about seemingly intractable, recurring issues, we help leaders identify a root cause that makes many competing priorities seem like busy work. When applied to this district, the curriculum team was able to see that in order to sustainably change instructional practices and systemically create access to grade level content, that instructional leadership and all of its components had to be the center of any and all efforts towards progress.
What outcome do you want to see with your principals, instructional coaches, and teachers? What shifts would applying “Design It” require? What aspect of this shift excites you (or makes you a little bit anxious!)? Talk it out with a work bae or drop it in the comments and let me know!
A few years ago, I was supporting a team of network + district leaders/ Networked Improvement Community tackling the 'issue' of ELLs (English Language Learners). There was a sharp increase in languages spoken by students and their families (one even had over 40 languages represented!). This increase in linguistic diversity coincided with a decline in achievement scores.
Not only that, but the belief that English is a prerequisite for learning grade level content was also on the rise. Which translated to a growing students number of students who were only exposed to school work years below their ‘level’ because they were not proficient in English.
But some students did better than others. Some grew faster than others. Which is natural. But....why is it that it was students who spoke Italian + Russian were experiencing more success than students who spoke Spanish + Arabic? What about our professional development, our decision making and our instructional practices was producing this result?
We never found out. Because we didn’t ask. We didn’t ask because it was never a part of the vision or theory of change. By the time I joined the project, the driver diagram (an evidence-based tool for vision setting) had already been developed. I was shocked to see that any mention of race or ethnicity was completely absent from it. How is it that in New York City, one of the most segregated school districts in this country....
race has nothing to do with how much English and grade-level content a child gets to learn?!
District leaders, school leaders, and, by extension, teachers were never required to think about how race impacted what kids learning English had access to in the classroom. And it’s because it was never explicitly included in the shared vision.
So when we talk about equity, we really have to get really concrete and envision it all the way. We, teachers, school leaders, and system leaders alike have to dream about what equitable outcomes for Black students would look like in our schools and school systems.
Because if we don’t articulate it and name it and dare to dream it, we guarantee that we won't achieve it. It is not possible to be held accountable and make progress on a goal if you haven’t had the courage to envision it first. We can’t create equitable outcomes without talking about race AND the way it shows up in the work that we do and are responsible for.
So let’s do it. The first step to creating Innovative Systems in the Equitable Outcomes Framework is “Envision It”. So I want to ask you: What is your vision for your school system? What would it mean to create access to for Black children in your school system? What would stay? What would go? Don’t hold back and dream big! Then share that dream with a work bae, or with me by dropping a comment!
There is always time for what matters: equity for Black children.
I believe that with boundaries and hard conversations, anything is possible.
When launching a project with school and system leaders, I always start with the vision. We suspend judgement, we suspend reality, and we dare to dream. During the Envision It phase of work, I help teams build out a vision of what it would mean to create access for Black children in their specific school system. We dig in and define what this would mean and look like for each level of the school system. And I push my clients to get as concrete as possible and go all the way in. I ask:
What are kids doing every day if they have access to grade level content?
How would teachers be planning instruction that creates access?
What would school leaders need to do in order to make sure that teachers are planning instruction that creates access?
How would system leaders protect and develop the capacity of their school leaders to support teachers in this way?
From there, we transition to the Design It phase of work, where we design the PD structures, role shifts, schedules, new expectations, anything that will help support this. And when the reality of what we design sets in, system leaders do one of two things. They get excited. Or they start to object. More often than not, I hear:
"We just don't have the time to do all of this."
"People will never get onboard. They just don't do that."
In this space, ignoring objections and dismissing them as if they are insignificant is the fastest way to undermine any change initiative. So we dig in.
We consider the pros and cons of accepting these concerns as immutable facts. We consider the cost for Black children, their teachers, and anyone supporting them, including those in the room. We consider how making decisions around these concerns as immutable facts impact the daring vision we created earlier...
...And most people, just don't like how this feels. Cognitive dissonance ramps up and it comes time to pick their discomfort. So they do. From there, all of the 'priorities' that were consuming their time and energy become distractions. From there, the discomfort of boundaries and hard conversations pales in comparison to the discomfort of not doing everything in their locus of control to protect that vision and bring it into fruition. Especially when after the Design It phase of work, their understanding of what is in their locus of control has dramatically expanded.
So when school and system leaders get here, keeping up with an overwhelming amount of emails, attending meetings that could have been emails, and the busy work of constantly putting out fires, become distractions. They collectively give themselves permission to say no to things that don't lead to access for Black children. And in the Protect It phase of the work, I teach them how to remove barriers (real and imagined) that undermine our desired outcomes. And it always involves some kind boundaries and hard conversations. But with those things, anything becomes possible, especially equity for Black children. So now I turn to you.
What does your school or school system have time for? Does that include actions that create equitable outcomes for Black children? What are you planning on doing about it? If you know your school system needs this, and you have no idea how to get there, let's talk about it! Comment and share your responses to these questions below.
I actually love discomfort.
Discomfort is so powerful. With discomfort, the unimaginable transforms into the attainable.
I want to be clear -- I'm not talking about the 'you're kinda creepy and I don't know how to get out of this situation' kind of unease. No to that, always. Because #boundaries #nomeansno #youdon'towepolitenesstopeoplewhoviolateyourspace
I'm talking about the discomfort that comes up when you realize a gap between your intent and your impact. Or better yet - your identity and your impact. I love the cognitive dissonance that bubbles up in this space because it motivates people to act in ways they couldn't even previously dream of.
It is amazing to watch school and district leaders confront some hard data and reimagine what is possible when they analyze it under the premise that these outcomes were entirely in their locus of control. It always gets uncomfortable, seeing something you can't unsee alongside your colleagues. But that's the beauty of it, too, to have those aha! moments with all relevant decision makers in the room. That's when we can move mountains. In those moments, the impossible becomes possible and everyone is a little bit more willing to have the hard conversation, find the funds, create the time, and set boundaries. They are able to make change happen starting tomorrow morning. It's that or sit with the discomfort of knowing that 'going back to normal' means inequity for Black children. So they picked their discomfort.
I want you to pick your discomfort, too.
Do you want the discomfort of changing any and everything that is not currently or immediately creating access for Black children?
Or do you want the discomfort of knowing that despite your best intentions, you are not disrupting the status quo?
You cannot unsee what you've seen. So now choose. Which discomfort will you embrace? And to what extent will this discomfort generate equitable outcomes for Black children?
Does the idea of this make you anxious and feel hot and cold at the same time? Or do you feel inspired and empowered to be disruptive? Talk it out with a work bae or share your thoughts in the comments-- I would love to know!
We did it. We made it. 2020 is behind us. Sort of....
2020 got a bad rap for being itself. But the truth is 2020 didn't create new inequities that we didn't know how to deal with. 2020 amplified the inequities we had been ignoring and misnaming, until it got up in our faces and screamed:
In typical universe fashion, the world reminded us last week that the racism and white supremacy that were shouting at us did not go away simply because the ball dropped in Time Square. Terrorists were given permission to siege the US Capitol building because they were white supremacists. I somehow managed to be both genuinely shooketh and unsurprised. Well...
It's scary to think about the way last Wednesday served as a loud ass dog whistle for racism and white supremacy. Whose ears did it land on? What will it provoke? What is this teaching white people about what they are allowed to do? And what about the fact that 55% of white women voted for Trump (up from 2016!)? White women also make up almost 80% of all teachers. The overlap is serious. How many of our Black babies are being taught by people who felt seen and represented by last week's display of disrespect, violence, and terrorism? When these babies make mistakes as they learn, will their teachers see it as feedback on their teaching practices? Or are they more likely to use that data as proof that these kids 'can't handle it' and make everything easier so they can feel 'successful'?
Heavy questions, with heavy thoughts. Yes, it is another day as Black queer womxn in this country. And I know it's another day of heavy questions, with heavy thoughts for you, too. So please, protect your energy.
Protect. Your. Energy.
Say no to the (unpaid) emotional labor it takes to educate white people about themselves. They have google.
Say yes to reclaiming your time for tasks related to your job description. Which leads to more time for yourself, your loved ones, your sanity.
Say no to performative grief, anger, fear, anything. You do not have to cater to the willful amnesia that dominates this country and seeps into your everyday life. Especially when the most forgetful and shocked people also seem to be the ones that are allergic to the sound of your voice when you do speak up about the inequities that are in their locus of control. Just do it. Say no.
Say yes to living your life, processing however you need to process, and giving yourself permission to disconnect. It can be with RHOA. Or 90 Day Fiancé. Or anything by Octavia Butler. Or Blue Apron. Or takeout. Or that one thing you've been meaning to do for no other reason than you want it. Because your desires are enough. Your needs are enough. Neither require explanation or approval from anyone other than you!
Black children don't need us to be burned out, tired, run down, or mentally depleted. When we get like that we leave because the rainbow was not enuf. That's not what Black children need from us.
Black children need people like you and people like me to be well so that we can stay to slay another day. Cause we got this. And when we own, take, and create our seat at the table things change. And the only way to stay engaged in the work of dismantling and reconstructing an education system capable of producing equitable outcomes for Black children is to....
Protect. Your. Energy.
You're gonna need some boundaries.
You might have some hard conversations.
"No" will have to become a complete sentence.
And. The world will keep spinning. Except now, you will have peace and the power to carve sanity into your life. Which is what Black children need- adults who see and believe their ordinary brilliance to who have the capacity to show up and take action that does create access for them. Because if what happened at the US Capitol made you dread zoom meetings last week so much that you wanted to hide under your covers or dream up of an illness and call out sick (I've been there, too.), I promise you, you are not in a space that allows you to thrive and create the equity dreamed of when you chose education.
So go ahead and do it. Protect. Your. Energy. Think of one thing you can do tomorrow morning to protect your energy. Visualize it. Say it out loud. Make it real and call a friend, text a work bae, or declare it to the world and drop a comment here. Let them know what you plan on doing so they can ask you about it at the end of the day.
Stop carrying the weight of it all and protect your energy!
I have to be completely honest.
Leading up to the election, I kind of disassociated from the reality of what was going to happen on Tuesday, November 3. As an American citizen who is a Black queer womxn, I felt very disappointed not just in this country, but in the political party that takes for granted the efforts and needs of Black people, women, and queer people on a regular basis.
It seemed like the DNC was saying that two old white men accused of sexually harassing and assaulting women are the best you can hope for or expect. Which, as a firm believer in Black Girl Magic, just seems straight up outrageous to me.
And when I saw that Kamala was chosen for VP, I immediately felt two things, very deeply, at the same time:
1. excited for the culture and the visibility
2. extreme side-eyes at the DNC and Biden
Which brings me to how I'm feeling after the longest election day in recent history: relieved, exhaling, but nonplussed.
Relieved: I am absolutely and completely relieved that 45 just got foreclosed on by tens of millions of people. I have to admit, even as a pragmatic-identifying historian, I did find myself occasionally shocked at the things 45 did and undid. I am relieved that I don't have to brace myself for that level of shock and harm for an additional four years.
Exhaling: Which brings me to taking a breath. We all know 45 and his crew just might take the copper out of the walls on their way out, but thank goodness they will be out. For this I say Praise. The. Lordt. May the healing begin.
Nonplussed: And I can't help but also feel unbothered. I am under no illusion that my dream to see Black children and their ordinary brilliance be seen, respected, and amplified is going to come into fruition because of Joe Biden. In a world where the amount of white women who voted for 45 increased to 55%, and where 79% of all teachers are white women, I have to sit back and think, where is the liberation of my people going to come from? How are our Black babies going to access the kind of education that literally allows them to learn on grade-level, so that when the doors open, they have real opportunities?
I'm still grappling with these questions and don't have neat answers for you. But I do know that the power to achieve it lies between you and me.
How are you processing this new reality? Share your thoughts in the comments.