Tag Archives: Diversity

Diversity: Necessary (But Insufficient)

Our country has a long history of social movements that fight inequity, injustice, and institutionalized oppression and which are led by marginalized or oppressed groups. But the educational equity “movement” is unique in that it has, from the beginning, been led largely by white, economically privileged leaders and funders, while the communities most impacted by educational injustice are largely brown, black, and poor.

The outcomes of this disconnect are approaches, practices, and structures that are not deeply and authentically informed by the communities being served. They often lack sociological and cultural context and relevance. This reinforces power dynamics between school leaders and families, educators and students, and organizational leaders and their key constituencies. And these dynamics perpetuate dominant white culture, practices, and beliefs and maintain the systemic oppression living comfortably and largely untouched at the root of educational inequity.

In recent years, the consciousness about this disconnect has risen in our field, and with that increased awareness has come a desire to change. School leaders have started to shift away from zero-tolerance discipline policies that fuel the school-to-prison pipeline and towards restorative justice approaches. Educators have started to examine pedagogy for cultural relevance. Organizational leaders have started to prioritize diversifying their organizations. Funders have started to see the dramatic lack of ways to track data and metrics related to diversifying school staff, organizational leaders, and volunteer bases and boards.

As more nonprofits, charter schools and networks, and district leaders have come to our Bellwether Talent Advising practice frustrated by lack of progress on their diversity, equity, and inclusion aspirations, we have articulated an approach called the Funnel of Impact. This approach helps organizational leaders to build and run educational equity organizations that are what we call “talent-ready,” organizations that live and act in deep alignment with beliefs around diversity, equity, and inclusion. Continue reading

An Often Overlooked Dimension of Diversity: Military Experience

Weapon barrel and camels

Photo by Ann Weeby

I’ve written a lot about diversity on Ahead of the Heard and I’ve focused my attention on the importance of racial diversity in the education sector. And for good reason, a long history of discrimination against people of color is a primary reason for our tragic opportunity gap.

But we know that diversity is as multi-dimensional as humans are and one dimension often overlooked by employers is the experience of military veterans. Veterans, especially those who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, accrue incredible skills that could benefit the education sector if we could only get better at recognizing their potential.

Less than 1% of the US population serves in the military which explains why service members transitioning to civilian jobs run up against barriers in the hiring process. A deep military-civilian divide often means hiring managers, recruiters, and HR screeners will be unfamiliar with military terminology embedded in resumes that describe the rich and varied work experience of military leaders. When recruiters only spend six seconds reviewing a resume, what are the chances they’re stopping to translate a military operational specialty (MOS) into civilian terms?

Of course biases come into play as well. Unless you’ve served yourself, have loved ones who’ve served, were raised in a military family, or work closely with service members or veterans, it’s easy to let the media shape our perceptions about the military experience. We imagine a hierarchy where orders are barked from superiors to subordinates until they’re carried out unquestioned. We imagine nonstop gruesome combat. We unfairly assume veterans are volatile or damaged when they return home.

In reality, the military has a wide array of professional positions and unmatched skills training. As a result, veterans have incredibly valuable soft and hard skills that the education sector needs. I wrote about them last year on Eduwonk:

Military leaders learn to complete a mission within the structure of a bureaucracy and with the people provided to them, limited resources, and significant externalities at play. They learn to be adaptable in ambiguous situations and think in terms of systems. They analyze situations methodically, put a plan in place, pursue it doggedly, and learn continuously. Many are responsible for the safe return of hundreds of subordinates and millions of dollars in equipment. But more importantly, they’re driven by a purpose larger than themselves.

Almost every single service member I talked to said they were interested in pursuing a career in education because they yearned for a job that provided them the sense of service to others they felt as part of the armed forces.

Education organizations shouldn’t wait for veterans to apply to jobs. Instead, we should take a page out of the playbook of many private sector companies that include veterans in their diversity efforts and spend considerable resources to recruit, train, and support former military personnel. Out here in the Bay Area, Salesforce.com’s VetForce* and LinkedIn’s veterans initiative are two such examples.

Veterans Day is a great reminder that we must examine the practices of our own organizations and correct them where biases turn into barriers.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Which roles would benefit from someone with military training?
  • Do you have a pipeline of military talent?
  • Do the people doing the hiring at your organization know how to read a military resume?
  • What biases around military service do you and your staff bring to the hiring process?
  • If you employ veterans, do you support them and celebrate the experience they bring?

If you’re a veteran working in education or work at an education organizations that has a veterans initiative, tell us about your experience in the comments and on twitter.

*Disclosure: My incredible wife, who is a combat veteran and a champion for strong veteran transition services and employment opportunities, works at the Salesforce Foundation which does not fund Bellwether.

The Hand-off of a Lifetime for Native American Students

This is the first post from our newest team member, Senior Advisor Allison Crean Davis.

Inasmuch as an hour and a half can sufficiently examine an issue that exemplifies “a long history of broken promises” (per Chairman John Kline), last Thursday’s Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing on Native American schools provided a public mea culpa from a government that has consistently failed to provide quality education for Native American students. While the hearing, entitled “Examining the Federal Government’s Mismanagement of Native American Schools,” allowed us a peek into the challenges at hand and emphasized hope moving forward, nagging questions remain.

First, let’s talk about what was clear. There were an abundance of grim words used to describe the longstanding status of Indian education: “bungling bureaucracy,” “bleakest outcomes,” and “individual and national economic tragedy.” As cited during the hearing, approximately 93% of Native children attend traditional public schools and 7% attend schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE), part of the Department of Interior. Within the public schools, only 69% of Native American children graduate high school. For those in BIE schools, the number is barely 50%. There is a long list of BIE school facility issues documented over a decade ago and still being addressed, which includes heating problems, gas leaks, buckling floors, and popping circuit breakers. There are also the problems of mobility: students and families move frequently, there have been 33 BIE Directors in the past 36 years, and a heap of restructuring attempts has left educators in the system chasing moving targets.

The jury’s out on what’s required to provide adequate financial support for schools serving Native American students both on reservations and in our towns. At first blush, BIE schools have the highest per-student spending in the country at over $20,000 per year. That’s nearly double the national average. Then how is it possible that there are crumbling walls in these schools? As BIE Director Charles Roessel suggested, some of these schools are so remote they have to allocate their own resources to areas typically covered by city and town infrastructure, such as water and fire safety. We also know that funding formulas for rural education may not sufficiently address these additional and necessary supports.

It is indisputable that change is needed. Generations of Native American students have failed to thrive academically within the public school and BIE systems. The consensus during last week’s hearing was that this change needs to address a fundamental yet long neglected concern: the need to better integrate the rich history, languages, and cultures of Native American students into the educational content and process to bolster a stronger sense of identity. How to do so? Transfer control for the education of these children to their tribes. Continue reading

Is Your Organization Talent-Ready? Launching Our Expanded Talent Services Practice

Look across the sector and you’ll find countless organizations focused on the important work of developing broader teacher and leader pipelines to education organizations. Teach for America, TNTP, New Leaders, Education Pioneers, Encore Fellows Network, The Broad Residency, The Strategic Data Project, and the new The Surge Fellowship are some of the more well known examples. Each has changed the national conversation about who works in education, which skills are needed, and what it takes to get high-caliber professionals in the organizations that need them most.

But what happens when a talented teacher, principal, or system-level leader lands in an organization that’s not equipped to allow him or her to thrive? As a field, we’ve spent more than a decade focusing on the supply side of the talent equation without commensurate consideration for building talent-ready organizations that are innovative, effectively managed, and joyful places to work that generate dramatic results for students.

At Bellwether we are proud to announce our expanded Talent Services practice to support organizations to become talent-ready. Grounded in our track record of success placing transformational leaders in new roles and our disciplined strategic approach to growing effective organizations, Talent Services captures the best of Bellwether’s integrated approach.

Continue reading

Talent 2.0 in Baton Rouge

Crawfish in pot

via www.pamelaspunch.com

I attended the second Education Ecosystem Summit hosted by New Schools for Baton Rouge (NSBR) last week and was treated to phenomenal Southern hospitality and a glimpse into a city that’s primed for some serious systemic reform. The event was top-rate and the showing from education leaders from across the country was as impressive. NSBR’s convening power is another indicator that we should expect a lot of innovation coming from smaller cities in the near future.

I moderated a panel on the challenges, opportunities, and innovations in the talent world which included Elizabeth Shaw, CEO of Education First, Rich Harrison, CAO of Uplift Education, and Krysta DeBoer, ED of the Center for Urban Teaching who each brought very different perspectives to the topic.

The overarching theme was how to move from where we are now to the next “version” of talent practices. We called it the transition from Talent 1.0 to Talent 2.0. We defined Talent 1.0 as an era of talent practices and organizations overwhelmingly focused on building pipelines and improving evaluation. What Talent 2.0 will look like was an open question and my panel raised some excellent insights on what’s to come.* Continue reading