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Evaluating the Equity of "Best" Practices

best practice equity Dec 18, 2022

Ask yourself these questions if you would like to examine the equity of your best practices.

 

In the world of K12 education, we often hear the phrase “best practices” used…a lot. You might liken this to how standard operating procedures (SOP’s) are regarded across sectors outside of education. The phrase often drives how we create toolboxes filled with go-to strategies that should work well for most students. Likewise, the terminology can be applied to adult practices and procedures for hiring, evaluation, pay scales, and much more.

Before we go too far down the road with how we might qualify actions, procedures or strategies to be considered a best practice, it is important to define equity.

Pedro Noguera says it best regarding students: “That’s at the core of equity: understanding who your kids are and how to meet their needs. You are still focused on outcomes, but the path to get there may not be the same for each one.”

This definition transcends beyond just students; it is an understanding that can (and should) be applied to leading adults as well.

I was recently corresponding with one of my director friends who serves within a well-known national nonprofit. He posed the following question to me: “At what point do you feel comfortable labeling a procedure as a “best practice”?

Finding the question quite thought-provoking, I sat with it for about two days.

I found myself pondering how we (as educators) have also taken to using the phrase “equitable practices” and I’m just wondering how we determine if a practice is both “best” and “equitable”?

The following evolved from a few key questions I posed and later developed into a protocol any school team could use to evaluate an instructional strategy, behavior management intervention, hiring practice, etc.  I’ve included an example of each step centered specifically on hiring practices.

Step 1: Identify said “best practice”

Example: Attending college fairs.

Step 2: Define what it is and who it is supposed to be serving

Example: Our hiring strategy to recruit new teachers who are equipped to serve all students.

Step 3: Determine what is currently working with the practice and what needs work

Example: We currently can recruit approximately 5 new teachers each year from college fairs. We are not currently tracking their retention rate according to their teacher preparation program nor providing a robust onboarding experience.

Step 4: Dig deeper to evaluate the equity of the practice, procedure, or strategy by asking the following questions, beginning with this sentence frame: (BLANK- fill in with the practice, procedure, or strategy you would like to evaluate) is a best practice.

Example: Our current recruitment strategy for new teachers is a best practice.

  1. What data supports this statement?
  2. Who defined this strategy as a best practice?
  3. How was success defined and measured?
  4. What impact has occurred as a result of this best practice?
  5. How could this strategy be made better?

I might argue that step four is the most vital aspect of this protocol as it lends itself to determining the level of inclusion within your organization. For example, if we determine in questions two and three that only the director of human resources created the definitions, it is likely not a holistic or inclusive practice with representation and active contribution from multiple voices and narratives.

Conversations ignited in step four can often reveal a lack of trust between team members and/or differing beliefs, creating tension. This is okay, and I might argue it can even be a great thing. Why? Healthy disagreement and discourse can position organizations for exponential growth because their foundation is rooted in professionals who trust each other enough to be honest and vulnerable.

Evaluating the equity of your organization’s practices creates an environment where each person can thrive. When an ecosystem is established focused upon valuing each individual holistically, your organization sends a clear message:  We are focused on outcomes but we also understand, value, propel, and trust that each person can and will find the best pathway to the outcome.

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