• Jerica Knox, Ph.D.

Get REDI! Preparation for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

A new school year means new children and a continued push toward equitable practices for students. Many school districts and other organizations have pursued equity, diversity, and inclusion trainings with the hopes of ensuring the academic success of marginalized students. However, few pay attention to a critical factor that can potentially influence the effectiveness of such trainings—readiness for equity, diversity, and inclusion (REDI).

Is it enough to bring in equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) trainings and expect for school personnel to change in ways that support the academic, personal, emotional success of all students? We say no! In order for individual teachers, administrators, and support personnel to gain the knowledge and skills offered by EDI trainings, we contend that one must be ready to engage in sometimes challenging conversations related to educational inequities, historical oppression, and the experiences of marginalized youth navigating school cultures that do not reflect who they are. Research demonstrates that some educators may have deep resistance to engaging with these topics (Blitz et al., 2016). REDI helps to translate EDI training knowledge into successful implementation of equitable practices in school. So, how do we increase REDI?

There are two types—Collective REDI and Individual REDI (Knox et al., in press).

Collective REDI

Collective REDI refers to the preparedness of a school at the organizational level to engage in EDI related discourse. It acknowledges that individual school personnel are limited in their ability to create widespread change without system-level support. It also acknowledges that not all school personnel will be willing to increase REDI; however, we asserts that a large body of school personnel can make a difference. We intentionally use collective rather than whole-school to assert this point. Two domains to increase REDI at the collective level are: leadership and awareness.

Leadership: As always, leadership is pivotal to making schools run efficiently and successfully. The same is true in the realm of equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts, as leadership sets the tone for improving REDI. It is suggested that school leaders at all levels be motivated and open to EDI professional development. It is important to note that school leaders may not initially have all the skills and knowledge to direct deeper EDI change; however, they must be open to sharing their competency and efficacy in order to improve readiness. In doing so, they can model a willingness and desire to learn.

Awareness: Awareness refers to the collective school’s knowledge regarding the needs of all students and families, including those that are historically marginalized. It emphasizes an understanding of practices and policies that can produce educational and disciplinary disparities in students. Increasing awareness of current issues can improve REDI training by identifying problems that training can help with. An example of an activity to improve awareness is collecting disaggregated data to discuss identity-based patterns in discipline referrals, special education placement, and gifted/advanced placement.

Individual REDI

Individual characteristics can influence one’s readiness to engage in equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts (Chung et al., 2013); thus, it will be important to focus individual readiness in addition to collective readiness. Individual REDI focuses on individual school personnel’s internal and external preparedness to engage with others regarding EDI discourse. We contend that it is just as important as collective REDI because individuals make up groups. Two domains to focus on to improve individual REDI include social and emotional.

Social: To increase REDI, it will be important for individual school personnel to continuously be cognizant of their own privileges and how they demonstrate power through their interactions with others. Learning about oneself, the identities one holds, and one’s motivation for EDI work can help to avoid misinterpretation, misinformation, and misrepresentation during training. To what extent am I ready to engage with your co-workers in conversations regarding racism? Oppression? Historical trauma? How will others respond to my opinion and how does that affect my ability to continue engaging in the conversation?

Emotional: EDI training can be taxing and difficult as individuals come together to discuss the ways in which school systems and individuals perpetuate inequities for students. It will be important to build up emotional capacity to increase REDI. It is important for educators to confront their biases to be able to challenge inequities that permeate U.S. schools; however, it will also be important to be mindful of one’s current emotional state and whether it is amenable to engagement in training. We also acknowledge that emotional capacity can look different for school personnel whose identities are those that are being discussed during training. It will be especially important, in this case, to be mindful of one’s emotional capacity to engage in EDI discourse.

NCS3 is proud to support schools and districts in preparing for EDI-based trainings in order to implement more comprehensive school mental health systems and ensure the academic, personal, and emotional success of all students. We look forward to partnering to promote both collective and individual readiness to engage in this important work!

Blitz, L. V., Anderson, E. M., & Saastamoinen, M. (2016). Assessing perceptions of culture and trauma in an elementary school: Informing a model for culturally responsive trauma-informed schools. The Urban Review, 48(4), 520–542. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11256-016-0366-9

Chung, Y. (2013). Trainee readiness for diversity training. Journal of Diversity Management, 8(2), 77-84. http://dx.doi.org/10.19030/jdm.v8i2.8234

Knox, J., Alvarez, A., Golden, A., & Hope, E. Increasing readiness for cultural responsiveness and trauma-informed practice: Collective and individual readiness. In press.