Teacher Networks for Educational Equity

The Student Experience Lab is partnering with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to engage teachers in creating and leading local communities of practice focused on issues of equity and closing opportunity and achievement gaps. Our nation’s public school student populations are becoming increasingly more diverse. In 2014, the overall number of Latino, African-American, Asian, and Native American students in U.S. public schools surpassed the number of white students and this trend is expected to continue in upcoming years. While the demographics of students are changing, the achievement gap between students of different races has remained static. Teachers play an integral role in student achievement and they often feel unprepared when engaging with students from different backgrounds. We are interested in how teacher-led communities of practice might serve as a model for increasing teacher effectiveness and closing gaps that separate students along racial and cultural lines.

Design Challenge

How can we ensure that our teachers are prepared to serve classrooms of students with a growing diversity of strengths and needs?

Approach

In partnership with the Gates Foundation staff, grantees, and partners in key states--including Florida, Massachusetts, New York, and Tennessee, BIF will connect with educators, facilitate development of teacher-led communities of practice, and support the launch of these communities. Communities of practice position teachers to learn from and with one another in real time on pressing issues related to their work. By allowing teachers to self-organize around topics of their own choosing, communities of practice can ensure that teachers are not simply passive participants, but instead are actively engaged in the professional growth of themselves and their peers. Educators involved in this work will engage in participatory design to identify structures and mechanisms for fostering collaboration, engaging with issues of equity, and expanding on valuable learning. Through collaboration, peer led learning, networking, and storytelling, educators will gain valuable tools to create the necessary environments for equity, deeper learning, and student success.

Impact Statement

We can not advance education innovation without explicit attention to our changing student populations. BIF is excited that this project will test real world implementation of strategies to address the equity gaps within education. By supporting teachers, explicitly increasing their capacity to meet student needs, and disseminating strategies through storytelling, we will continue our efforts to remove barriers to engaged learning and student success.