#EquityinECE: Promoting an Equity Agenda in Early Learning
June 26th, 2017 | by SRC
What do we mean by equity in early learning (and who is the “we”)? Why is equity in early learning important? How do we generate momentum? What is our call to action? These question guided robust discussions during the recent #EquityinECE event sponsored by School Readiness Consulting (SRC) and our Equity in Early Learning Initiative (EELI).
On June 15th, our team and partners in the DC metro area were invited to engage in a deeper conversation around equity in early learning, as an extension of the work that has been initiated through EELI.
Building on SRC’s history in early childhood equity and social justice work, and the significant early learning achievements in the District, Maryland and Virginia, EELI’s mission is to develop and implement a clear 3-year agenda to elevate the DC metro area as an early learning model for exemplary work in equity leadership and social justice education. Launched in Fall 2016, EELI has focused on forging partnerships with leaders from a number of national organizations with a local interest, DC metro county and city governments, local higher education institutions, and DC metro school districts who have demonstrated a commitment to equity in early learning through their work. The #EquityinECE event provided an opportunity to collectively identify actions needed to deepen practices, policies, and systems in order to realize equitable outcomes for all children in the DC metro area.
The #EquityinECE event featured a panel discussion with David J. Johns, Former Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans; Carol Brunson Day, Former CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition and the National Black Child Development Institute; and Michelle Molitor, Founder and CEO of Fellowship for Race & Equity in Education (FREE); moderated by Lindsey Allard Agnamba, Executive Director of SRC.
The evening opened with a push from David J. Johns who emphasized the need to move beyond the term “equity” as a new buzzword in the education field. The conversation provoked participants to explore what it might take to truly offer equitable early learning opportunities for all young children and their families. Johns offered five action items as a frame for our work:
- Center and celebrate the experiences of all our babies
- Ensure all children have access to high-quality early childhood programs
- Meaningfully engage parents, families and communities in the work
- Address trauma, toxic stress, and institutional racism
- Responsible for changing the narrative, particularly for children of color
Carol Brunson Day and Michelle Molitor joined the discussion with poignant reflections about the intersection between early education, race and equity work. Connections were made about how young children are already working to understand the complexity of bias and discrimination and the importance of adults in their lives being able to “show up” by having authentic and appropriate discussions about identity, human difference, and social justice. With that, the following charge was extended – “how can we begin to think about early childhood as being the next frontier in having conversations and building a society that is capable of taking on issues of racism and inequity…it needs to start with our youngest people.”
Moving forward, EELI partners, alongside others in the early learning field, are being called upon to find ways to strengthen existing efforts and generate greater change – both locally and beyond – in order to address systemic inequities impacting our youngest learners. There is a great sense of urgency around this work since “we ALL collectively lose when our children don’t succeed,” as shared by David Johns.
Written by Nicole Sharpe, School Readiness Consulting