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FREE: Foundations for Racial Equity in Education

Jessica Sullivan-Wilson (2018 Fellow) and Sonia Mathew (2018 Fellow)

FREE prepared and supported school leaders to identify inequity in their schools and how to address them through the Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA).

CUE supported the Chicago Public Schools Office of Equity by creating a program for a cohort of CPS school leaders on the use of the Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA). This program prepared and supported school leaders to work with their school teams to identify policies creating inequity in their schools, and to learn how to address them by engaging in a cohort learning model centered on REIAs and implementing trauma-informed supports.

The Why

CPS principals wanted to put equity principles into practice in their schools and across their district.

Chicago Public School (CPS) principals wanted the opportunity to put equity principles into practice in their school communities. They also wanted to connect with other colleagues as thought partners and collaborators to address larger inequities in the district. Through this project, we engaged three neighborhood elementary schools and three selective enrollment elementary schools, which resulted in both community and citywide impacts. Principals developed school teams that included school leadership, parents/guardians, educators, and students.

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The Collaborators

This project was managed by CUE Senior Fellows Sonia and Jessica, facilitated by CUE Partner, Elizabeth Deligio, Racial Equity Officers for CPS and an extensive Accountability Team.

This project was managed by CUE Senior Fellows Sonia Mathew and Jessica Sullivan-Wilson. Elizabeth Deligio served as a consultant and facilitator for sessions. FREE also worked closely with Maurice Swinney, when he was the Chief Equity Officer for CPS, and Liam Bird, who serves as the Director of Racial Equity Initiatives with CPS. Lastly, there was an Accountability team that served in an advisory capacity. This team included: David Stovall, UIC; Amanda Lewis, UIC; Chris Graves, Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Fanny Diego Alvarez, Grand Victoria Foundation, and Jianan Shi, IL Raise Your Hand.

The How

Equity Action Plans prioritized the most concerning inequities, diagnosed root causes, and developed action steps to address those root causes.

Each of the schools’ Equity Action Plans identified key audiences impacted by inequities in their school communities. School leaders developed engagement plans with CUE staff to bring these school teams into a planning workshop to develop their Equity Action Plans, and through this engagement, school teams worked with school leaders to: Prioritize which inequities were most concerning; Diagnose root causes of the inequities identified; Develop a series of action steps to address the root cause, as well as accountability partners. School teams also received a "Bring it Home" Guide to support implementation of their plans.

The Outcomes

“This is the best professional experience of my career.” Three CPS principals successfully completed the FREE workshop series and published their Equity Action Plans to their school communities for shared accountability.

Three of the six principals successfully completed the FREE workshop series. School leaders not only engaged in studying Historical Liberatory Memory work to evaluate themselves, their identities, and their roles in leadership due to this history–but also the histories of their school communities. Next, FREE worked with them to shift power to folks impacted by inequities in their school communities (bringing in students, and families of very young children) to engage them in determining the challenge and identifying corrective actions. Finally, the Equity Action Plans developed were published back to the school communities as a resource of shared accountability.

The CUE Influence

FREE used the CUE model “Acknowledge History, Shift Power, and Embrace Accountability” and adapted the REIA tool for school settings.

The framework for the FREE series was structured using the CUE model of "Acknowledge History, Shift Power, and Embrace Accountability." FREE engaged and activated the CUE network to provide thought partnership for recruitment, curriculum development and reflection. In addition to working to adapt the Racial Equity Impact Assessment tool for school settings.