5 Steps to Reaching Academic Equity in Your Schools and Classrooms

5 Steps to Reaching Academic Equity in Your Schools and Classrooms

Effecting Change for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners On July 1, the 2nd edition of Effecting Change for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners hit the shelves of bookstores online and worldwide. As exciting as that was for me, I'm even more excited about the opportunity for teachers everywhere to dig into what's inside, so they can effect change for their learners, not only in the United States but also in English-speaking countries worldwide. What's inside that should give you chills about the possibility of changing academic outcomes for your learners, all your learners? I'm so glad you're curious!

Let me share the five steps to reaching academic equity in your schools and classrooms: the five steps you'll find as you consume the pages of, and activities in, Effecting Change. But first, two caveats:

  • One, these five steps must be taken in sequence. This is a systematic, mapped excursion to a place of academic equity.

  • Two, you can't get there unless you address more than just your school's structure. You must also address school culture.

That said, the five steps.


Kindergarten student and teacher presenting in from of the classStep One: Connect with your learners' cultures.

The cultures of their homes and their community. Often, professionals commute into and out of the neighborhoods in which they teach. If we don't connect with our learners on a cultural level, how can we fully understand their wants, needs, and desires in the classroom?


Step Two: Examine the methods you use to teach your learners.

We've got to go back to school on how to teach, with the focus being on what's appropriate for the children whose eyes look back at us when we're in the front of our classrooms. They aren't some invisible middle. They are uniquely diverse in many aspects that effect teaching and learning.


Teacher reading to classStep Three: Examine the tools you use to teach your learners.

What works for your learners may not be what works for others. Your choices must connect to the lived experiences of your learners. I often use the oversimplistic example of my own lived experience as a child and the use of the iconic Dick and Jane as the basal series of the time. I just couldn't relate.


However, I did relate to a book called Negro Congressional Medal of Honor Winners that my teacher, Mrs. Gowdy, handed me. On those pages, I saw people who had accomplished extraordinary things. And they all looked like the men in my family. That was inspiring. That was relevant. That experience has stuck with me for some 42 years now. Our learners deserve the same. 


Step Four: Examine the academic assessments you use to measure and monitor the progress and outcomes of your learners.

Just as instructional content can be culturally biased, so can assessments. And it's not just about the pictures. The vast majority of assessments produced for English language instruction are created by test designers representing the White, middle-class, mainstream, School English speaking culture. Consequently, they are not culturally connected to the learners in our public schools, overwhelmingly representative of other cultures, ethnicities, and languages.


Step Five: Make all decisions about teaching and learning based on data.

Whether it's a decision to adjust a group size, time in instruction, reteach a concept, change methods or content, it should be based on data that comes from appropriate assessment. Which takes you back to step four.


Remember the first caveat?

The steps must be taken in sequence. Those five steps are built as a framework. It's a framework with a laser-like focus on the academic outcomes of each of your learners. When you begin at step one, taking each in turn and then repeating the steps once you finish step five, you engage in a cycle of incremental improvement. As a result, you learn more each time the five steps are completed. Typically, this occurs over one to three years. But there's more…


Professional DevelopmentThe CARTI Framework for Professional Learning

Addressing the framework's steps often requires that educators receive professional learning opportunities to do the work. That is why a companion, or mirrored, framework – the CARTI Framework for Professional Learning – stands in tandem. While steps one through five are the same, we shift the focus to professional growth with the framework for professional learning. 


"Educator, teach thyself" is not a best practice. We address the two lanes of structure and culture on the professional learning side, restructuring and reculturing, to reach academic equity in your schools and classrooms.Were it merely a matter of the structure of schools, we'd have finished the work long ago. We're pretty proficient at changing the way our schools, bell schedules, classrooms, professional learning are set up.


My observations usually find that it is not the structure but the culture of our schools and classrooms that prevent us from creating a system that works. That is why as we take the five steps, we do so with professional learning focused on both culture and structure, with culture taking the lead. You see, it is structure that gives us the physical tools to set up our systems.

But it is culture that opens our eyes to see the richness in what each of our learners brings to our classrooms.

It is culture that opens or closes our minds to the benefits and joy of teaching culturally and linguistically diverse learners.

It is culture that sees the value in our learners and their lived experiences and how those experiences impact how our teaching is received, processed, assimilated, and retained.

It is culture that creates a community within a school or district that sees value in teaching each and every child without favoritism for or bias against any group.

Teaching with equity.

And it is the synergy, the combined effect of reculturing and restructuring, that creates the unstoppable momentum needed to reach academic equity. Are you ready to take the first step?


Coffee chats on Tuesday, July 27th What’s Next?

I invite you to join my free on-demand webinar as I share insight from my newly released book, Effecting Change for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners, 2nd Edition. Learn why culturally appropriate response to instruction (CARTI) is the way schools operate. Come take a drone flight overview, and be ready to set your GPS for the land of CARTI!

In this webinar, participants will:

  • Learn my motivation for writing Effecting Change.

  • Explore an outline to reach academic equity and understand why the CARTI framework must be taken as a sequential whole.

  • Examine the need to drive in both the lanes of school structure and culture in order to create a school built on academic equity for learners of cultural and linguistic diversity.

 Register Now:

Watch the on-demand webinar at your own pace.


Author bio

Dr. Almitra Berry

Dr. Almitra Berry, CEO, founder, and principal consultant of ALBerry Consulting, Inc.

Almitra L. Berry, Ed.D. is the CEO, founder, and principal consultant of ALBerry Consulting, Incorporated. She is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and consultant on the topic of culturally and linguistically diverse learners in America’s K12 education system. Her research focuses on equity and academic achievement in majority-of-color, low-wealth, large, urban school districts. Dr. Berry is the author of the book Effecting Change: Intervention for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Learners and the newly released 2nd Edition focuses heavily on provision gaps, equity, and addressing related challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.