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Advancing Equity through District Strategic Planning

Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages

A district strategic plan can be a powerful tool to advance equity in your district, especially if it outlines a bold vision for the future; identifies clear strategic priorities and measures of success; and reflects the perspectives of students, families, and educators. We’ll share some tips for creating inclusive and equity-focused strategic plans.

Developing strategic plans is a key responsibility of school board members and/or district leaders, depending on your district’s governance structure). Through this process, which usually takes into consideration state-required school improvement plans, stakeholders chart a concrete roadmap for how the district will reach its key goals. Effective strategic plans send a powerful message about what is most important to your district and community, and provide clear guideposts for moving towards your vision for equity.

Leaders can advance equity through a strategic planning process in two key ways: 

  • Through the content, by communicating ambitious equity-centered goals and values, and prioritizing programs and initiatives that have been shown to lead to more equitable outcomes for students.
  • Through the process, by engaging diverse stakeholders in the planning stages and gathering and acting on input from students, families, and communities most impacted by educational inequity in your district.

Content: What goes into a strategic plan?

Regardless of their format, district strategic plans answer the questions: Where are we? Where are we going? How will we get there?

To help address these questions, most strategic plans contain:

  • Mission and Vision: Concise statements that explain the district’s purpose and function, who it serves, and the equitable future that the district is working towards.
  • Values: The set of principles, like equity, that guide district actions, and decision-making.
  • Strategic Priorities: Areas (e.g., teaching and learning, staff development, classroom culture) that the district must focus on to achieve its vision in a way that is in line with its values.
  • Goals and Metrics: Specific outcomes that the district aims to achieve within the strategic priority areas.

Strategic Plan Examples

Check out strategic plan examples from Los Gatos USD, Highline Public Schools, Palmyra (NJ) District, Chicago Public Schools, and DC Public Schools to see ways that districts have communicated equity-focused plans. These are strong models as you envision the content, structure, and language for your district’s plan.

Process: How have districts practiced inclusivity with their strategic planning?

Engaging diverse stakeholders in the strategic planning process strengthens the impact of the strategic plan by ensuring it authentically represents diverse stakeholders’ perspectives and by investing the broader community in the district’s priorities. 

First, take a look at the makeup of the team or committee charged with drafting the strategic plan. Make sure that students, parents, community members, and teachers and school leaders are represented, along with board and district leadership. 

It’s also important to ensure that you have parents, students, and teachers from different schools and backgrounds, which will provide more comprehensive input. In this way, diverse stakeholders will play a direct role in setting priorities for the district and can ensure that a range of perspectives is represented around the decision-making table.

Also, consider ways in which you can gather meaningful community input and feedback on the plan. Design a range of opportunities for engagement – surveys and community forums can allow for engagement from a broad range of stakeholders, while focus groups and one-on-one interviews will allow you to gain deep perspectives and insights from the community. 

Ensure that engagement opportunities are accessible (for example, by translating documents and surveys), and that you are hearing from members of the community most impacted by inequities that exist in your district (e.g., unhoused students and their families, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners, and students and families involved in the criminal justice system).

To spark ideas for how you can engage diverse stakeholders, check out the Mountain View Whisman School District strategic plan website. Also, this video allows you to hear directly from stakeholders who engaged in Judson, Texas’s strategic planning process.

Checking for Equity

Both the strategic planning process and the resulting plan itself send powerful messages about your district’s values around equity and inclusivity. As you chart a planning process and start a draft, it is important to reflect on whether your plan aligns to your values in practice. Check out LEE’s post on using an equity lens for ideas on how you can check for equity throughout your district’s planning process. 

Reflections

  • If your district has an existing strategic plan, how has it helped to advance equity? Where has it fallen short? Why?
  • After reviewing the examples in this post, what ideas do you have on how you can make your districts’ strategic plan, as well as the planning process, more equity-focused? 

 

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