Equity Plan Convening Catalyzes State Collaboration

By Alex Berg-Jacobson, AIR Technical Assistance Associate, and Cheryl Pruce, AIR Researcher, Jun 29, 2017

Earlier this month in San Diego, state education agency (SEA) leads from 42 states and 26 equitable access experts gathered together to address what Janice Poda, senior advisor to the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), called a “moral imperative.” Hosted by CCSSO and the Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center), this convening catalyzed the important work taking place nationwide to ensure that disadvantaged students have access to excellent educators. Experts in data review, root-cause analysis, and stakeholder engagement came from across the country to assist state staff in this work and pave the way for work just now beginning.

Leading up to the June 1 deadline and beyond, technical assistance (TA) providers stand ready to support states developing and implementing their State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators (“equity plan”), part of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) “Excellent Educators for All” initiative.

At the convening, experts from TA providers such as the GTL Center, CCSSO, Public Impact, the new Equitable Access Support Network (EASN), and regional comprehensive centers met one-on-one with representatives from states. For instance, the Nevada team met with an expert to discuss strategies to engage stakeholders. Ohioans, with Texans listening in, met with a data expert about measuring equity gaps. In all, innumerable conversations took place in San Diego and will spark others across the country. 

During the convening, three major content presentations mirrored the three components of the process that ED is requiring for this round of state equity plans:

  • Root-Cause Analysis. Ellen Sherratt and Holly Boffy engaged participants from the New Hampshire Department of Education and the Northeast Comprehensive Center in a discussion of underlying causes for their equity-related challenges. As Paul Katnik from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education noted, root-cause analysis is “like an onion; you just have to go deeper and deeper.” And they did! Using the GTL Center’s Root-Cause Analysis Workbook, they pinpointed more than 20 root causes and shared challenges and best practices. Going forward, states will keep facilitating root cause analysis discussions and TA providers are available to support this work upon request.
  • Data Review. Andy Baxter of the Southern Regional Education Board led a discussion of creative ways to analyze and present data related to students’ access to excellent teachers. Rather than using broad policies akin to a “sprinkler,” he urged SEAs to use data analysis to develop a precise “irrigation system” to ensure equitable access. From simple scatterplots to aesthetically appealing map visuals, Baxter showed that the data can speak volumes when presented clearly and compellingly. As states dig into their data, the GTL Center’s Data Review Tool can support this part of the process. 
  • Stakeholder Engagement. A diverse panel―consisting of TeachPlus fellow Heather Hotchkiss, Education Trust–West‘s Executive Director Ryan Smith, National Governors Association Education Program Director Sarah Silverman, and David Tilly, deputy director of the Iowa Department of Education―discussed ways to authentically engage key stakeholder groups with a vested interest in improving equitable access. The panelists all reached the same bottom line: build meaningful relationships, and engagement will follow, along with a lasting partnership. Easier said than done? Yes, but through the GTL Center’s Stakeholder Engagement Guide and direct requests, TA providers can help states reach their goals.

The meeting of the minds in San Diego already has pushed states’ equity work to a new level. One state rep commented that meeting times with experts involved “great conversations that were most helpful and appreciated.” Another noted, “We were able to speak with all of the experts [with whom we requested to speak], and we found the brief conversations helpful to our work.”

Participants also posted highlights from the presentations on social media, sharing insights from the convening with followers in attendance and elsewhere. Our Storify captures the online conversations that the convening inspired. 


As for next steps? States already are on the move! Before the conference ended, one state leader had reached out to her regional comprehensive center to request a meeting with GTL Center equitable access leads. Meanwhile, a representative from EASN had state leaders participate in a live polling of the communities of practice they want to join with other states. This way, states can connect directly with each other to collaboratively brainstorm and problem-solve.                                                                                                                                                                        
Let the meetings, engaging conversations, analysis, and writing begin!  And let the engagement and long-lasting relationships follow!

Do you need support in this work? Or do you have questions about the available resources? Please contact Ellen Sherratt at esherratt@air.org or request technical assistance directly from the GTL Center.


Add new comment

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.