Activity Guide

Initiating professional conversations about effective administrative practices in schools will expand the vision of school improvement, introduce team members to multiple perspectives of successful practices in schools, and focus on the alignment of these practices to the local school plan for improving student achievement. This discussion guide focuses on leadership for equity.


Reading: “Leadership for Equity,” Principal’s Research Review, March 2012.

To get started:

  • Give all participants a copy of the text.
  • Ask individuals to suspend their assumptions and give specific references from the text to support their comments.
  • Add discussion questions to continue the conversation in a way that is relevant to your school.
  • Conclude the discussion by asking, What would it look like here? What new actions should we consider after having read the article?

Use the Process Circle (Reading II in this module) to build consensus and use the planning tools to organize the new actions being considered into a successful implementation plan.

Collaborative LeadershipPersonalizationCurriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
How can collaboration with staff and community members narrow the achievement gap successfully in my school?What actions can the leadership team take to build trusting relationships with staff and community to improve the school climate and student achievement?Why is it important that the leadership team model their beliefs about equity to the school community?What recommendations for practice did Larson (2008) compile from education leaders? Which practices could our Leadership team employ to improve the educational outcomes for each of our students?What type of support networks can we create for our students so that all will feel welcomed and valued in our school environment?What professional experiences might we provide for our teachers and other staff to improve instructional practices in our classrooms?How can providing all students with access to the whole curriculum improve educational outcomes for all of our students?What strategies could we implement at our school to increase rigor, improve instructional delivery, engage teachers in instructional planning, and monitor achievement gap reduction?What actions could our team implement to make more effective use of the assessment and evaluation domain?What were some of the strategies implemented by school leaders in the empirical study (Theoharis, 2007) to improve student achievement and what resistance did they need to overcome?How can the leadership team use those strategies to improve instruction at our school?

B. Focus on the quotes from “Just the Facts”: What do the data show? “Racial and economic disparities remain an everyday reality throughout our education system” (Barton & Larson, Principal’s Research Review, March 2012).

Just the FactsDiscussion Prompts
Schools that primarily served black students were twice as likely to have teachers with only one or two years of experience, as compared to schools in the same district serving mostly white students (US Department of Education, 2011, para. 3).Leaders must be capable and willing to address persistent gaps in achievement and practices that marginalize students of color and other underrepresented groups (Darling-Hammond, 2010).Evident in all of these strategies is that “principals influence equity indirectly, by increasing the technical skills of staff, transforming their beliefs about equity, and strengthening school partnerships with parents and the community” (Ross & Berger, 2009, pp. 465–472).Theoharis (2007) noted that changing tracking or segregation models “was not only a pedagogical or learning shift but also a moral act” (pp. 234–235).Many demonstrated a “whatever it takes” philosophy to apply their leadership values and pursued creative ways to validate, build trust with, and seek understanding of their increasingly diverse students (Larson, 2008, p. 146).Are our student demographics reflected in honors, advanced, reinforcement, and special education classes?Has our supports for struggling students replaced their access to a challenging curriculum?What strategies have we put in place to address the persistent achievement gaps in any of our subgroups?What assessment strategies have we implemented to monitor and adjust our improvement plan?As a leadership team, what strategies have we put in place to better engage our students in their own learning, focus professional development on diversity-rich content for our classes, and strengthen our relationships with parents and the community? How can we improve?As we examine our instructional school grouping strategies and support groups, are students given an opportunity to move in and out of group structures based on mastery? Are our struggling students given an opportunity to participate in classes with our most experienced teachers? Have we made efforts to correct the incidental “tracking” produced by our scheduling process?What commitment will it really take from the leadership team to apply their values and pursue creative ways for each of our students to “thrive” academically?

C. Making the Mathematics Curriculum Count, 2nd edition, excerpt, Commitment Statements: pp. 1–2:

A commitment of this magnitude is not easily defined or accomplished; it takes enormous work and effort when other matters, often important in their own right, clamor for attention. Working through the self-reflection necessary to articulate a realistic and powerful commitment philosophy is often difficult but essential to creating a foundation for change. The philosophy must not only be clearly stated, concisely and simply in your own words, but it must also be modeled in your actions. A personal commitment statement helps keep your instructional focus in mind as you go about your daily tasks. A personal commitment statement as simple as “I will devote time each day to improving the educational skills of my students” says volumes about your priorities, is easy to remember, and cuts to the heart of the new role you have identified for yourself. There is no more powerful way to accomplish this than by your day-to-day actions in support of your personal commitment….Your assertion must be crafted by you, not pressed on you by others; require action on your part, not be focused on what others will do to accomplish your goals; be something you really believe, not a restatement of someone else’s vision; and, most important, speak directly to improved instruction and learning in your school.

Extend the discussion by asking, What do we as members of the leadership team commit to the educational success of each student?