Imagine a public education system where all students feel valued and engaged in learning relevant to their futures and the sustainability of our society. Imagine that educators in this system and policymakers have a deep understanding of how structural factors and personal biases negatively impact certain groups of students disproportionately and that they have the skills to disrupt these trends. Imagine this system and the educators within it receiving unwavering moral and financial support.
This is the vision of the Southern New Mexico Equity Forum. The Forum is an action-oriented effort comprised of educators, researchers, elected officials, non-profit representatives, families, and youth leaders who strongly believe equity work should be integrated into the fabric of our education system. Our efforts are aligned with Transform Education NM and include members from throughout the state. The Forum’s mission is similar to the SUCCESS Partnership’s, though on a statewide scale.
A truly equitable education system requires a deep commitment to continuous learning, personal growth, and institutional integrity. To achieve this, the SNM Equity Forum recommends curriculum transformation, infusion of equity at the district and state levels, teacher preparation transformation, an equity-infused long-range plan, and structural and philosophical shifts.
A HOMEGROWN APPROACH TO ACHIEVE EQUITY
1) The curriculum in NM must prepare students to be active participants in an increasingly complex world so they can develop solutions to pressing social, environmental, and economic challenges. Key curricular shifts include accurate depictions of U.S. and world history, critical media literacy, and pluralistic approaches to concepts.
2) Equity must be infused at the district and state levels, which will require a new emphasis on capacity building that is different than in years past. This will necessitate a major shift in awareness for many and the acquisition of equity-based language and skills.
3) Teacher preparation in NM must now prepare new teachers to focus all their work with an equity lens. Most NM teacher education programs require just one multicultural education course, and whether equity is centralized in other required courses is largely dependent on instructors.
4) NM needs a long-range equity-based comprehensive plan for public education. Such a plan would recognize the gifts and strengths all children bring to the formal learning environment, placing students, their families, and communities at the center.
5) Major structural and philosophical shifts are necessary to truly develop a student-centered learning and decision-making system. Strong and proven culturally and linguistically responsive models exist in pockets in NM and should guide our system’s redesign. All other systemic impediments to equity-based learning should also be examined.
Already, after only four Zoom gatherings, we have identified two action items. To begin transforming the curriculum, we plan to host a Lesson Writing Institute in Summer 2021 for teachers and students, where previously omitted knowledge will become public and available for all learners. To address the need for structural and philosophical shifts, we are initiating a year-long youth-driven media awareness campaign that will begin with a postcard to legislators created by youth in the Enlace SNM Program at Gadsden High School and Alma d’Arte Charter High School.
As recently expressed by our team’s youth members: Now is the best time to make big changes in NM. Students in our schools are tired of not being heard. They want more autonomy and control over their learning. The overemphasis on grades and attendance right now is only making matters worse. They agree that we can create an education system where all students feel valued and are supported to thrive. All this requires action and a commitment to change. First, we must demand that equity is no longer optional. From there, we need to raise awareness about what equity truly is and then begin the skill-building process, together, to enact it. To support the Equity Pledge and/or register for the next Virtual Equity Forum on January 14, please go to www.LABLC.org. Contact Andrew Montoya at email@example.com for more information.
In Unity & Strength,
The SNM Equity Forum
The SUCCESS Partnership is a prenatal to career readiness education initiative founded in 2013. The collaborative is supported by a diverse group of over 100 cross-sector organizations comprised of parents, education professionals, nonprofit organizations, businesses, regional partners, and community leaders committed to improving educational outcomes in Dona Ana County. The primary support organizations for the SUCCESS Partnership collaborative are Community Action Agency of Southern New Mexico, Ngage New Mexico, La Clinica de Familia Family Services, and NMSU Center for Community Analysis.
For more information, or if you would like to be involved, please contact Sommer Mitchell, SUCCESS Partnership Communications Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.