You might be wondering who thought it would be a good idea to hold an Equity Forum in Arizona in 2011? We’ve asked ourselves that same question.
Across the United States and around the world, we often hear public debates that perpetuate individual and student group deficits as they relate to access, participation and performance in education. In some instances, local governments have been the drivers of legislation that takes a position contrary to educational equity, which makes our work exceptionally challenging. We believe that our Leadership for Equity and Excellence Forum offers an opportunity for passionate advocates across the country to have the kinds of equity and social justice conversations that are necessary to create waves of change. With all of the media attention Arizona has received in the past several months, some might question our choice to conduct such a forum in this location. However, we believe it is fitting to gather in this space in order to critically reflect about the ways in which equity and justice are infringed upon, so that dedicated groups and individuals can continue the crusade of promoting equitable policies and practices throughout our nation. In other words, even for educators, researchers, and advocates of educational equity, a central challenge is to rise above the politics of the day to tackle the ever-complex issues associated with creating meaningful, sustained progress.
We hope that our Forum participants will take advantage of this opportunity to engage in dialogue with other educational leaders around the country on topics such as:
• How can we move equity efforts forward in an environment that seems contentious?
• How can we build alliances to support transformative work in resistant systems?
• Who are allies for the work that we are doing and how can we connect with them?
• What networks are in place to galvanize support and sustain energy for the difficult, often isolating work that we do?
• What work is being presented at the Forum that can help to revitalize and improve upon our own initiatives?
Advancing an agenda for equity and social justice requires courageous leadership that addresses and confronts various forms of bias and injustice. By reframing our institutional practices, standards, policies and values, in response to a deeper and more thoughtful understanding of the world in which we live, we are able to renew our commitments to everyday justice. A clear willingness to stand firm on behalf of fairness and justice is imperative and necessary to create school environments that offer all students access to high-quality educational opportunities where their cultures, language, and experiences are valued and used as resources for learning. The Leadership for Equity and Excellence Forum affords participants the opportunity to think broadly about responding to the changing needs of students in order to continuously improve curriculum, climate, instructional practice, and policy. Our participation offers hope and support to the many courageous leaders taking a stand in some of the most challenging circumstances. In essence, it offers each of us the opportunity to go beyond the sidelines – Let’s get to work!