Equity Walks Embody Core Values For Learners, Adults & The Community
Dr. Joan Faus, Student Support Services Coordinator
In 2020 Vista Unified adopted a resolution (Resolution 20-42) reaffirming its commitment to fight racism. The resolution affirmed that: equity is a core value of the district; that Vista aims to celebrate diversity and eliminate barriers; the district would stand in solidarity with historically underrepresented groups; and that it would resolve to conduct workshops and training focused on bias, and direction for the district in addressing bias.
One of the outcomes of that resolution is the series of “Equity Walks” taking place at 24 district school sites during the 2023 - 2024 school year. The 24 schools are divided into three cohorts of eight school sites. These walks are designed to provide insight into observational data for administrators, staff, parents, and students to reflect upon, remove barriers, and address inequities.
The Process of Equity Walks
Principals from each host site meet with Student Support Services two to four weeks in advance of the walks to review the process and plan details. Facilitators provide materials to guide the process, which lasts from 8:00 - 11:30 AM at each school site.
Participants include staff, parents, and occasionally students, who observe classrooms. After observing classes each team conducts an objective dialogue and creates an observational poster with three areas to address: three equity themes, two successes, and one area of growth. These areas address the observational components of rigor, relevance, relationships, or cultural relevance.
Observation notes are collected and the site principal keeps the posters to share with site leadership. The results of all of the themes will be shared with the Superintendent’s Council on Equity and Anti-racism, which makes recommendations to the Superintendent through the lens of equity.
(Caption: A VUSD PTA President reviews Equity Walk observations with her cohort)
Connecting Equity With Learners
The VUSD learner portrait seeks to grow learners who are kind and confident, as well as resilient, self-directed learners. The lens of relationships and rigor highlights how students self-direct, as well as if they are appreciative of one another.
The learner portrait also includes students being capable and knowledgeable. It specifically mentions core academic knowledge as a component of the portrait. The observations gathered during our Equity Walks note whether students use academic language, highlighting learners’ knowledge and capability. The components of relevance note if the learner is involved in the lesson as well, with agency and ownership, noting connections across subjects, aligning with our vision of the learner portrait.
At a recent Equity Walk, a student from Roosevelt Middle School stated that the experience helped her see what is done in multiple classrooms, adding context to the group’s insights. An observational poster from another school stated that the group saw "students empowered to facilitate learning." Two students were cited as key presenters at one of the equity walks, chosen to publicly share their groups' observations.
Helping Adults to See More Broadly
During Equity Walks, observers are asked to note responses toward students within classrooms. For example, groups seek awareness of whether teachers promote students expanding on their thoughts, or whether students’ voices and backgrounds are portrayed in the classroom through dialogue, or visibly on the walls.
Our district’s Adult Portrait expresses the goal of creating student-centered environments that are tailored to meet the interests of students and engage in practices that are free from bias. These walks help to provide objective insights that facilitate self-reflection among our teachers, administrators, and staff.
In addition to the Equity Walk visits by cohorts, principals are provided training to support a deeper lens during equity walks for each visit. For that training Vista Unified is working with consultant Nicole Anderson, a pioneer in equity, to support our process in self-reflection and systems analysis.
Nicole has supported the Superintendent’s Council for Equity and Anti-Racism in past years. The work, revolving around equity, has been at the center of VUSD’s vision.
Systems To Build Equity
The VUSD System Portrait envisions a culture of rigor and a system of care, each of which is included as an observational point within Equity Walks. School site systems may be noted as well. For example: does a school’s culture and its practices include having students build relationships with visitors? Is culture addressed in the library, or are culture and identity seen visibly in the classrooms?
To better ensure that these observations can be seen from a systemic point of view, Equity Walks intentionally include the principal, certificated staff, classified staff, parents, and students from the host school. Each visit also has two other school sites with similar group compositions, as well as two district administrators (both certificated and classified) to provide another set of perspectives. Finally, a facilitator is assigned to each cohort to support the principal in the process.
(Picture Caption: Dr. Christine Olmstead, Assistant Superintendent
for Educational Excellence and Innovation, participating in an Equity Walk)
Embodying Our Values
Vista Unified School District’s values are respect, trust, collaboration, kindness, and equity. Equity Walks provide opportunities to express and embody each of these values within the context of identifying and improving our awareness of and expressions of equity across our VUSD community.
Equity Walks emerged as a result of the Superintendent’s Council for Equity and Anti-Racism, and they align with our portraits and values. At the conclusion of Equity Walks across the district, participants will share insights regarding their experiences, share themes with the Equity Council, and reflect on key areas to address in future planning both for the district as well as at individual school sites.
For more information about Equity Walks, the Superintendent’s Council for Equity and Anti-Racism, and the team at Student Support Services, contact Dr. Joan Faus, Student Support Services Coordinator, via email email@example.com.