Early Learning Racial Equity Training
- Pathway to Change Area: Student Measures of Progress
- Outcome from PSESD Pathway to Change: A racially just and humanizing school system; all can succeed and achieve
- Indicator Name: Children meeting school readiness standards (Preschool Teaching Strategies GOLD)
- Indicator Description: The percent of children meeting developmental expectations in all six domains of the TSG assessment
Engaging Staff, Families and Students in Racial Equity Work
PSESD’s Early Learning and Equity in Education departments partner to provide racial equity training to internal early learning staff, subcontractors, center directors at school districts, and community agencies.
The Equity in Education Department trains Early Learning managers alongside internal PSESD staff and center directors. Team managers then initiate conversations about racial equity services with center directors for consistency and fidelity. Equity meetings with team managers are monthly, as equity services to school districts and community agencies are ongoing. In addition, families in Policy Council, Peer Programs, Early Head Start at the Washington Corrections Center for Women, and Educare Early Learning Center, receive direct service from equity managers.
“...our strategy is not to be a check box, but to provide a foundation, a common language, a way of being, a practice. We are interested in supporting subcontractors and early learning providers in carrying that and connecting it in their daily practice,”
In the Racial Equity Trainings, “our strategy is not to be a check box, but to provide a foundation, a common language, a way of being, a practice. We are interested in supporting subcontractors and early learning providers in carrying that and connecting it in their daily practice,” said Michelle Morse, Equity in Education Program Manager.
Equity in Education Program Managers Michelle Morse and Heather Kawamoto are intentional about helping participants make meaningful connections back to their work. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional two-day foundational training was adapted to a series of six, two-hour weekly sessions online. Facilitators discovered that the time in between sessions gave participants a chance to have deeper reflections. Kawamoto shared, “This happened before, during and after the death of George Floyd...we saw dramatic shifts in thinking….deep heart-felt sharing, [people] being willing to explore and learn, listening to new perspectives and what it means for their work with children and families. What Kawamoto describes as the “amazing silver lining of COVID-19,” is the ability Equity in Education managers have to serve more people — and with that added flexibility, the ability to strategically focus on direct service since traffic and travel obstacles are eliminated.
"Examining how the race work translates into the classrooms and family engagement services has been invaluable, as centers continue to provide delivery to children and families. Knowing that the race work is an ongoing journey and that it is not a space of judgement, but instead a space of building awareness to then inform change, makes for a learning environment that has space for all participants."
Students and families feel a positive impact when professionals truly invest and engage in the work. Team Manager, Noelle Wilkins, shared, “Centers are enjoying the Racial Equity training opportunities. They are mentioning growth within their site staff relationships and new levels of appreciation for one another’s cultures and backgrounds. Staff are also benefiting from the opportunity to learn and grow in a nurturing, yet accountable environment. It is challenging individuals to reflect upon their own thoughts, actions and words while better understanding the potential impacts on others inclusive of children and families. Examining how the race work translates into the classrooms and family engagement services has been invaluable, as centers continue to provide delivery to children and families. Knowing that the race work is an ongoing journey and that it is not a space of judgement, but instead a space of building awareness to then inform change, makes for a learning environment that has space for all participants. Lastly, the virtual opportunity to continue this work has been effective and meaningful in staying engaged in the commitment to race equity and growth.”
Kawamoto said, “There is research to support that when staff is able to shift not only their practices, but their philosophy and perspective, [but] shifting heart and mind around race, children and families feel, see, and experience that. How they feel about themselves and their racial identity directly impacts their learning of all these important school and life skills. This [racial equity training] is not an arrival, but it is an ongoing process.”
Looking Ahead: Culturally Responsive to Early Learners
PSESD’s Equity in Education and Early Learning departments are working together to provide safe nests of self identity and support for early learners. How students see themselves being mirrored back to them affects their experiences in the classroom, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic and amid racial and social justice issues. “If adults make their discoveries and are able to shift their practices, families will feel seen, heard and known. Culturally responsive teaching begins to take place along with positive conversations with families around race,” said Kawamoto. The training is a start to what is hoped to be a shift in thinking and a journey toward growth and positive change.