U. S. and Mississippi Departments of Education Host First Educator Equity Lab at Jackson State University

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U. S. and Mississippi Departments of Education Host First Educator Equity Lab at Jackson State University

March 29, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education (Department) and Mississippi Department of Education, with support from Partners for Each and Every Child, hosted the first Educator Equity Lab at Jackson State University today. This is the first of a series of labs that will be held across the country to focus on educator equity, as part of the Excellent Educators for All initiative. The lab will provide educators, community leaders, government officials and other stakeholders with the opportunity to come together to carry forward the work embedded in Mississippi’s Educator Equity Plan approved last November, to ensure equitable access to excellent educators for all students and to close existing equity gaps in schools.

In order to move America toward the goal of ensuring that every student in every public school has equitable access to excellent educators, the Department launched the Excellent Educators for All Initiative in July 2014, which requires each state to submit a plan describing the steps it will take to ensure that poor and minority children are not taught by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers at higher rates than other children.

“Parents understand that strong teaching is fundamental to strong opportunities for their children,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said. “Much of the work ahead rests on educators in our schools and classrooms who make a difference in students’ lives every day—particularly for students who have the odds most stacked against them. I saw that impact not only when I was a teacher and a principal, but also when I was a student. Teachers literally saved my life, and they were the reason I became an educator. So, the challenge for us is to make sure that having a great teacher isn't just a matter of luck and that all students have access to great teaching and to great opportunities in the classroom.”

“I applaud the participants in today’s lab for coming together to ensure all of Mississippi’s students have equal access to the strong teaching that they deserve, and to ensure that educators receive the support that they too deserve,” said James Cole Jr., General Counsel, Delegated the Duties of Deputy Secretary of Education. “It is essential that we continue these conversations about the progress states are making in implementing their plans and moving towards equal access to excellent educators for all students. When more young people are given the tools they need to unlock their full potential and eventually invest back into their homes and communities, the entire nation benefits.”

“We are proud to partner with the U.S. Department of Education to sponsor the first Equity Lab in the nation,” said Mississippi Superintendent of Education Carey M. Wright. “Equitable access to teachers of quality and experience has been a concern of mine since I arrived in Mississippi. It is our plan to ensure that all students have equal access to high quality instruction. In fact, ensuring that every school has effective teachers and leaders is one of State Board of Education’s top five goals.”

The goal of the equity lab is to examine the strategies designed to address these equity gaps, as articulated in each state’s educator equity plan, and collaboratively develop concrete, actionable steps to facilitate their successful implementation. Mississippi has demonstrated commitment to addressing equity gaps head on, as evidenced by their collaboration with the Department in jointly hosting this inaugural equity lab. Mississippi is also taking steps to increase data-driven decision-making, to help ensure that schools and districts have access to accurate and timely information necessary to make knowledgeable decisions.

In Mississippi—and across the nation—students of color and students from low-income backgrounds are disproportionally taught by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers. Specifically, Mississippi’s Educator Equity Plan includes data that demonstrate that in Mississippi, high-poverty and minority students are disproportionately located in the lowest-performing schools, which have half as many highly-effective and 1.5 times as many ineffective teachers as the high-performing schools. Equal educational opportunity means ensuring that schools have the resources they need to provide meaningful opportunities for all students to succeed, regardless of family income or race. To accomplish this, it is essential that a priority be placed on working collaboratively to ensure all students have equitable access to the high-quality education they deserve, and that all educators have the resources and support they need to provide an excellent education for all children. This lab will serve as a vehicle for conversations among the state officials, civil rights groups, unions, principals, parents, teachers, and students around best practices and strategies, as well as common challenges.