This commitment to action summarizes ConnectED’s perspective on why diversity, equity, and inclusion are core to our work and how we intend to deepen our commitment through action.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Values
ConnectED is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion as core values to ensure the next generation of young people are on a path to economic mobility and thriving careers. We do this work in parallel with an internal commitment to the reflective work necessary to understand how our own biases and proximity to privilege influence our services. This commitment is reflected in our mission to transform public education so that all students, especially those furthest from opportunity, are prepared to succeed in college and career.
The values articulated below extend beyond a public statement as they reflect ConnectED’s long-term commitment to continuous learning and growth. Throughout all our work, we keep the following diversity, equity, and inclusion values at the center:
Diversity: We value and embrace people equally across racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, and sexual identities both internally and in our work in communities. We will be intentional to ensure our staff and external partnerships reflect the diversity of the communities that we serve.
Equity: We are students of history and recognize the relationships between America’s legacy of discriminatory public policies and the educational, economic, and social disparities that persist in society. We stand as advocates and allies to help communities dismantle structural barriers, practices, and policies to create equitable communities.
Inclusion: We realize that diversity alone is insufficient. The workplace needs to also welcome honest dialogue and support personal growth.We strive to create a safe work environment that embraces diverse perspectives and courageous conversations. Both internally and in partnership with the communities that we serve, we will develop processes and guidelines that encourage full participation.
From Values to Action
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
The words of the American novelist, playwright, and civil rights activist, James Baldwin, are as true today as ever before. As evidenced by the racial unrest in communities all across the country, Americans must do more to combat long-standing systemic inequities. In public education, organizations such as ConnectED can do more to champion student equity and ensure all students – especially students of color and youth from low-income families – are on a path to success in college, economic security, and a thriving career.
Internal Actions to Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The change we seek starts within our organization by building a culture that embodies our values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Working as a team to develop shared actions will enable ConnectED to partner more effectively with communities and improve the lives of young people. The following internal actions are meant to build ConnectED’s internal capacity to engage communities more inclusively and dismantle inequities in K-12 schools, higher education, and the workplace:
- Distribute leadership: Past and present efforts to support diversity, equity, and inclusion at ConnectED are ad-hoc and often led by individual staff. Moving forward, ConnectED will convene a diversity, equity, and inclusion team to lead and support our internal professional learning and development. This team will be responsible for developing and implementing an internal plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- Develop knowledge: The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Team will engage staff in an ongoing series of learning sessions. The goal is to develop a common understanding of key equity concepts and spur reflection on our own biases. This work will create a stronger foundation for subsequent external action. Ideally, ConnectED will partner with national leaders to facilitate this process.
- Continually improve our values, skills, and practices: As we build our knowledge of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we will continually revise our internal processes, build new skills and mindsets (e.g., practice self-awareness and embrace complexity), and adopt new best practices to support how we conduct ourselves both internally and externally.
External Actions to Improve Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Leading for diversity, equity, and inclusion requires ConnectED to target its programs and services in ways that combat systemic inequalities in public education. ConnectED will apply these values in how we engage communities, cultivate and maintain relationships, and conduct our work with clients. The following actions will improve ConnectED’s engagement with communities and our partners:
- Analyze the equity challenges in communities: With support from resources generated by experts in the field, we will engage with local communities to analyze the equity challenges of our community partners. Specifically, we will collect and analyze data to better understand the experiences of the students, families, and educators in our partner communities. This information is essential to clearly understand racial equity at the local level.
- Develop equity-centered resources: We will integrate best practices in diversity, equity, and inclusion to improve our services with community partners. ConnectED is currently revising its resources, and we will develop new district tools and frameworks that ensure districts equitably place all students on college and career paths that lead to a full array of postsecondary education opportunities – including participation at four-year universities. In addition, to combat academic tracking, we will work with districts to support education systems that do not track low-income youth and students of color – especially black and Hispanic students – into low-wage occupational tracks. And we will work with districts to close the participation gap for students who are underrepresented in STEM pathways and courses, including female students and students of color.
- Develop new services: Since the onset of COVID-19, ConnectED has received requests from school districts around the country to support new ways to engage students in meaningful educational experiences amid remote learning environments. The challenges identified by teachers, school leaders, and families serve as an important reminder that school closures and remote learning threaten to exacerbate inequities for children who are furthest from opportunity. In response, we must move quickly to adapt how we deliver our services during these extraordinary times. Creating online learning environments that engage all learners is not impossible; however, remote learning is considerably different than learning in traditional classrooms. To ensure students do not fall further behind in the current environment, ConnectED has worked closely with school districts to adapt our services to address their needs and explore innovative solutions that address student equity challenges.