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Depending on where you are in the country, the words diversity, equity and inclusion, or DEI, are likely to elicit very different reactions from your stakeholders.

Terms like “cultural capital” and “critical race theory” are political powderkegs in places.

It’s impossible to have a conversation about DEI in schools without first putting that bit of truth on the table. 

So, there it is.

But here’s the thing: DEI in schools doesn’t have to be controversial, or political. In almost all cases, it’s just good academic practice. As a global pandemic worsens learning gaps for underserved and minority students — McKinsey reports some kids have fallen up to 11 months behind — creating space to account for different circumstances and perspectives is critical to accelerating learning, especially for those farthest behind.

Research shows that students who attend schools that are culturally aware perform better. 

  • In one national survey, students who had positive experiences with diversity & inclusion in school got better grades.
  • In another study, researchers found that underserved and minority students were more likely to receive remediation as opposed to opportunities for acceleration when compared to other students, despite the fact that remediation almost never works as good (or as fast) as acceleration.
  • In an article entitled, How Diversity Makes Us Smarter, Scientific American says that diversity promotes creativity and innovation in the classroom and “jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not.” 

These are, of course, just a few examples. The primary takeaway being that, while communities may continue to debate the myriad ways in which DEI practices get taught and integrated into our schools and curricula, there is mounting proof that such concepts, deployed responsibly and with the needs of students and families at heart, can have tremendous impact on teaching and learning, social-emotional health and the broader school experience.

Researchers at Drexel University’s School of Education put it this way:

“Fostering inclusion and awareness around multicultural education and taking a culturally responsive approach to teaching benefits all students. Not only does creating greater multicultural awareness and inclusion help students with different backgrounds and needs succeed, but it encourages acceptance and helps prepare students to thrive in an exponentially diverse world.”

Sums it up perfectly.

Interested in learning more about how diversity, equity and inclusion training can improve your school climate and accelerate learning for students this year? 

Dr. Luvelle Brown is one of the nation’s leading voices on DEI and culturally-responsive practices in schools. Check out his Mission Equity & Excellence professional learning program on RocketPD, and sign up for a 30-minute conversation to learn more about the work

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