Thursday / April 25

5 Phases for Building a Foundation for Equity

How do we create schools that better serve all students? It’s a question on the minds of many school leaders. The challenge is that while educators may dedicate years of hard work to equity efforts, they often see little change. Why? Too often schools look to other schools for “proven practices.” While successful, these practices have grown from those schools’ specific struggles and experiences. The teachers involved were passionate about the issues and committed to making it happen. Unfortunately, schools can’t adopt these practices expecting to generate that same passion and commitment. It just doesn’t translate.

Additionally, teachers and leaders are finding themselves burned out, worn down and alienated by today’s test-centered approach to school reform. Numerous mandates have impacted nearly every dimension of their professional lives, seriously depleting their passion and enthusiasm for change.

So, what works to create the change we need in our schools? The Deep Equity Process is built around the belief that school improvement for equity and social justice begins at the building level, is created and sustained by principals, teachers, and support staff, and is informed by students and their families. This systemic process helps heal our educators, shifting from shame and blame to mutual exploration and genuine growth. It brings inclusion, equity, and excellence to the forefront with an emphasis on action, practices, and culture.

5 Phases of Deep Equity:

The Deep Equity Process supports change—personal, professional and organizational—structured around these five phases:

1. Tone and Trust

When starting a new initiative, how many times have you heard “here we go again”? The goal in this phase is to address this attitude from the start and engage participants in talking honestly about what is happening within their schools.

2. Personal Culture and Personal Journey

While closely related to the first phase, this part of the process focuses on getting educators and leaders to explore their own personal experiences with race and differences. What is my story? This phase can be particularly eye-opening for white people who often do not see themselves as racial or cultural beings. It’s not only the students who bring diversity to schools, but every adult has a unique journey that deserves to be recognized and valued.

3. Social Dominance to Social Justice

The overall goal is to create schools where more students across more differences are achieving at a higher level and engaging deeply, without giving up who they are. We need to ask, what are the causes of these inequities? Where did they start? It’s time to dig into the historical and contemporary dynamics that have created and sustained systems of oppression, marginalization, and inequity. Participants are gradually led into deeper, more authentic conversations about issues of difference and discrimination.

4. Classroom Implications and Applications

At this point, the work moves into professional practice. How do we bring cultural competence and culturally responsive teaching into the classroom and the culture of the school? This section provides the connective tissue through the Seven Principles for Culturally Responsive Teaching that allows teachers to make sense of their work and bring it together with all other classroom initiatives.

5. Systemic Transformation and Planning for Change

Finally, the work elevates to the organizational level. How do we map out the implementation and assess progress? Tools and strategies guide leaders in understanding and assessing the movement of their school culture toward greater inclusion, equity and excellence.

Next Steps:

Implementing the Deep Equity Process can help you transform your school, putting you on the path toward equity, inclusion and excellence. This strategy paper provides an in-depth look at the five phases and how to build your capacity for cultural competence and culturally responsive teaching at the building level.


Download the Deep Equity Strategy Paper


Written by

Gary R. Howard has more than 40 years of experience working with issues of civil rights, social justice, equity, education, and diversity, including 25 years as the Founder of the REACH Center for Multicultural Education. He is a key­note speaker, writer, and workshop leader who has traveled extensively throughout the United States and Australia. Mr. Howard completed his undergraduate work in Cultural Anthropology and Social Psychology at Yale University and did graduate work in ethics and social justice at Yale Divinity School. He has served as an Adjunct Professor at both Western Washington University and Seattle University.  

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  • strategy paper doesn’t work please fix

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