On November 9, 2019, Pittsburgh Public Schools announced the next phase in its ongoing efforts to bridge racial equity gaps in the city’s public schools. On Track to Equity: Integrating Equity Throughout PPS is a comprehensive implementation plan that seeks to reduce racial disparities throughout the District and elevate the achievement levels of African American students.
On Track to Equity is designed to achieve one of the long-term outcomes identified in the District’s 2017-2022 Strategic Plan, Expect Great Things: Eliminate Racial Disparity in Achievement Levels of African American Students. The 97-page plan details 27 key action steps the District is taking toward this goal, each grouped under one of seven focus areas outlined in the MOU between PPS and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. As a starting point, the plan illustrates the District’s commitment to moving beyond compliance with the MOU to demonstrate our commitment to the continued monitoring of our progress and supporting the work of the Equity Advisory Panel (EAP).
The plan is grouped into seven focus areas, each of which includes action steps designed to promote equity within that topic. These focus areas include:
- Board support
- Instructional support
- Equity in discipline
- Reducing the achievement gap
- Equity in Special Education and Special Program access
- Administrative Support
Some examples of action items include:
- Improved professional development for PPS educators to bridge knowledge to practice, particularly in instructional strategies;
- Creating culturally responsive instructional materials;
- A careful review of curricular materials to ensure all students have access to a rigorous education; and
- Developing culturally responsive practices to healing violence and trauma.
In September 2006, PPS signed an agreement with the Advocates for African-American Students that included 94 action steps to reduce the achievement gap, provide instructional support and create an equitable environment for the District’s African-American and other underserved students. In 2012, the District and PHRC agreed to an additional two years of monitoring. The current MOU, which further solidified the District’s commitment to equity in education, requires PPS to provide a detailed implementation plan.
On Track to Equity is designed to achieve one of the long-term outcomes identified in the District’s 2017-2022 Strategic Plan, Expect Great Things. The plan illustrates the District’s commitment to moving beyond compliance with the MOU to demonstrate its commitment to achieving true equity.
On August 24, 1992, a complaint against the School District of Pittsburgh was filed with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) charging the District violated sections of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The District and the Advocates for African American Students, the group that filed the claim, reached a Conciliation Agreement in September 2006. This original agreement included 94-action steps that address how the District can reduce the achievement gap, provide instructional support, and create an environment of equity for its African-American students.
Per the 2006 agreement, representatives from PHRC, the Advocates for African American Students and the District selected members to sit on an Equity Advisory Panel (EAP).
Formed in October 2006, the Equity Advisory Panel is charged with monitoring, advising and reporting on the District’s progress. The Panel also recommends research-based strategies, methods, techniques and programs that support racial equity. The original Conciliation Agreement also required that the District provide administrative support to coordinate the Conciliation Agreement as well as oversee the monitoring and assessment of data.
Members not pictured: Ms. Celeta Hickman, Dr. James Stewart
Equity Advisory Panel Member Past and Present
MS. WANDA HENDERSON
Chair and Original Member of the Advocates for African-American Students
MS. TAMANIKA HOWZE
Original Member of the Advocates for African-American Students
DR. ANTHONY MITCHELL
Professor of African-American History, Penn State Greater Allegheny
MS. CELETA HICKMAN
Teaching Artist and Parent Organizer, Hill District Education Council
MS. MARIA SEARCY
Parent Consultant, Pennsylvania Department of Education
DR. JAMES STEWART
Professor Emeritus, Penn State University
Director, University of Pittsburgh Hill District Community Engagement Center
LARRY E. DAVIS, PH.D.*
School of Social Work, University of Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh Public Schools Parent
*former EAP Member
Mission, Vision and Focus
We want to empower the PPS community to provide each child equitable access to high quality learning environments, while identifying and removing cultural, structural, racial and social barriers that could impede their opportunities to become ready for college, career, and life.
Our mission is to:
PROVIDE ACCESS - Provide whatever supports and accommodations are necessary to ensure all students have access to the same opportunities; giving students whatever they need to achieve the outcome.
REMOVE BARRIERS - Eliminate policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or fail to eliminate them—i.e., addressing the root cause of racial disparities.
(Source: Center for Assessment and Policy Development)
Within the Office of Equity, we strive to:
- Accelerate student achievement by implementing sustainable, capacity-building strategies for systemic equity through district-wide professional development and coaching.
- Eliminate racial disparities by reviewing and monitoring policies and practices for equitable education through school level and executive level equity support.
- Increase access to opportunities by delivering on-site mentoring and enrichment to African American males and females through Student Equity Advocates and Promise of Sisterhood programming.
Equity Office Staff
ANGELA ALLIE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF EQUITY
Prior to returning to the District in 2016, Ms. Allie spent five years as principal of Propel Andrew Street High School, ranked as one of the Best High Schools in America in 2014 by U.S. News and World Report for math and reading proficiency and college preparation. Ms. Allie received her master’s degree in teaching from Hampton University and is currently a doctoral student in the School Leadership program at the University of Pittsburgh, where she spent three years as a K. LeRoy Irvis Pre-Doctoral Fellow and simultaneously served as the inaugural student fellow for the Duquesne University Center for Educational Leadership and Social Justice.
Ms. Allie began her career as an English teacher at Pittsburgh Oliver High School, where she later became an Instructional Teacher Leader, Assessment Coordinator, and curriculum writer. She is a recipient of the 2010 Equity Leadership Recognition Award from the Summit for Courageous Conversation. Her research pursuits have included Critical Race Theory in Education, the Asa G. Hilliard III and Barbara A. Sizemore Research Course on African Americans and Education, and school leadership for racial equity. Her studies and practice both reflect a commitment to systemic racial equity for historically marginalized students.
SISTER IASIA THOMAS, PROJECT MANAGER
Sister IAsia is a native of Cape Town, South Africa whose professional experiences have been realized in the context of education, multi-disciplinary cultural arts, high performance learning, and African centered arts education. Prior to joining the Equity team, she served Pittsburgh Public Schools as director for the Culturally Responsive Arts Education (CRAE) program of Pittsburgh Public Schools where she also taught African dance, artistic leadership, and creative writing to elementary, middle and high school learners.
She currently serves the District as a project manager of Equity with an emphasis on cultural relevancies in pedagogy, student identity, and transformative practice. She is interested in unifying the continental African and African American learners of PPS and their families to uplift, strengthen, and nourish the spirit of resilience innate in people of color.
ELIZABETH BROVEY, DIRECTOR, EQUITABLE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
Elizabeth has over 25 years of urban education experience involving classroom instruction, teacher leadership, training and support to academic coaches, and curriculum writing focused on teaching mathematics from an equity stance. She also achieved National Board Certification and served as a professional development facilitator, curriculum writer and assessment developer for the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Learning. Her practice has been nationally recognized and utilized through the NCTM’s Principles to Action Professional Learning Toolkit.
To advance equitable learning environments, she has facilitated school-wide PLCs, New Teacher Induction and professional learning for cultural responsiveness across content areas. As a school-based coordinator for Education Uncontained, she partnered with Duquesne University to bring learning experiences that are liberating and responsive to today’s youth in the area of social justice and youth agency, critical media and organizing for change. Elizabeth joined the Equity Office in January, 2019 with a commitment to deepen her action, knowledge and effectiveness as a Racial Equity Affiliate poised to grow and support adults and children through culturally relevant teaching and learning.
DEMETRIUS BALDWIN, STUDENT EQUITY ADVOCATE
Before joining the Equity Office, Demetrius served as a substitute teacher and championship winning coach at The Linsly School, a private boarding institution in West Virginia. During his time there, he advocated for marginalized, minority students and developed the skills necessary to partner with staff and administration on how to best serve minority populations through providing more equity in the classroom and beyond. A native of Pittsburgh, Demetrius earned a bachelor's degree from Bucknell University School of Psychology, where he was an All-American football player and Rieu award winner. His experiences living in Rankin and doing community outreach while attending private schools forged in him a spirit of advocacy for youth and equipped him to navigate difficult and courageous conversations across multiracial settings. Through his work as an Advocate, he hopes to prepare students for success inside the classroom, but also provide them the tools to be active citizens in this changing world they will be called to lead.
YAZMIN BENNETT-KELLY, STUDENT EQUITY ADVOCATE
Yazmin is a 2019 graduate of Carlow University where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English and Secondary Education. Prior to joining the Equity team, she spent several months teaching English Language Arts at Schiller STEAM Academy. One of her greatest accomplishments includes receiving the highest academic and service honor from her alma mater, permitting her to serve as the 2019 commencement speaker. She is also a cohort member of The Vira I. Heinz (VIH) Program for Women in Global Leadership, a program that offers a unique opportunity for international experiences, leadership development, and community service. Yazmin studied abroad in Accra, Ghana for four weeks, where she developed a deeper understanding of the concept, Sankofa, meaning “go back and get it.” Sankofa reminds us that we must go back to our roots to move forward. As a PPS graduate, Yazmin is looking forward to providing the support and service that she needed as an African American student. While serving as a Student Equity Advocate, she is committed to facilitating spaces that uplift and empower historically marginalized students.
ROBERT (JON) HAIRSTON, JR, STUDENT EQUITY ADVOCATE
Jon has over 20 years of urban youth experience involving strong Black male mentorship, educational and recreational programming, community development and empowerment, and civic engagement. After his studies in Business at Penn State University, Jon began working to improve his community by becoming the executive assistant for the Beltzhoover Citizens Community Development Corporation. Soon after working with communities and families, he found his true passion as the Program Director of an extended school program for young Black men called One Small Step, 21st Century Community Learning Centers. Prior to joining the Equity Office, Jon was a center director for City of Pittsburgh, Citiparks, where he worked to improve opportunities for healthy recreational and educational opportunities for children and families in our Pittsburgh city neighborhoods. Jon has received several awards and accolades for his efforts over the years, including nomination and induction into the 2017 Pittsburgh Courier’s Men of Excellence, citations from local government officials, and grant awards to serve his community. One of his greatest awards was being presented with a proclamation and a day named after him in recognition of his efforts in the Black community. Jon looks forward to continuing his efforts advocating and working for equity, equality, and excellence for Black youth in the Equity Office of Pittsburgh Public Schools.
YASMIN RAY, STUDENT EQUITY ADVOCATE
Yasmin has over 10 years of experience formally working with high school and college age youth. She is a graduate of Penn State University with a degree in Psychology and is currently completing coursework for her master’s degree in Higher Education through Penn State World Campus. Much of her focus has been on cultivating student achievement through an inclusive and empathetic approach. Yasmin’s most recent achievements include graduating from the 2019 Coro Pittsburgh Women in Leadership Program and moderating for “The Hearts and Minds of Our Youth: How to Build Strong, Inclusive and Welcoming Communities Town Series” presented by Westmoreland Diversity Coalition hosted at Penn State New Kensington. Yasmin believes her role as a Student Equity Advocate will allow her to build genuine connections with students, parents and all those who strive to make the Pittsburgh Public School System an integral part of the Pittsburgh community. She understands the need to provide students the resources and proper support to nurture their success. It is Yasmin’s mission to help her students thrive, not just survive.
KENDALL ROBERTS, STUDENT EQUITY ADVOCATE
A native of Trinidad & Tobago, Kendall recently relocated to Pittsburgh from West Palm Beach, Florida. His work in urban education for the past seven years involves classroom instruction along with overseeing the coaching and mentoring of boys and girls soccer programs, for which he was awarded Coach of the Year multiple times. Prior to joining the Equity Office, Kendall was part of the Pittsburgh Public Schools Food Service Management team. Kendall holds a bachelor’s degree from Palm Beach State College in Supervision & Management with a concentration in Healthcare and a master’s degree from Ohio University in Recreation & Sport Sciences. In his current role, Kendall is excited to advocate for and support students who grew up with similar struggles and hardships he faced as an immigrant child navigating the American school system. For him, the Student Equity Advocate program allows students to see similar faces fighting for their educational rights and working alongside them to maximize their potential. To build unity among the Caribbean, Continental Africans and African American students, he wants students to learn about and embrace each other’s cultures.
QUINCY KOFI SWATSON, STUDENT EQUITY ADVOCATE
For much of his career, Quincy has worked in education creating culturally relevant STEM and life skills curricula that address the racial achievement gap. For his social justice leadership in the public sector, Quincy was selected by Pittsburgh Magazine and PUMP as a 40 Under 40 honoree and by the Pittsburgh Business Times as a winner of the publication’s 30 Under 30 award. A proud graduate of Perry Traditional Academy, Quincy feels the responsibility to return the investment so many poured into him. He is very active in local marches, protests, and rallies calling for justice and equity. While he is currently completing his degree in Organizational Leadership at Point Park University, he remains committed to his role as a Student Equity Advocate and hopes to transform the lives of students as well as the inequitable conditions that interfere with their success.
Student Equity Advocates are assigned by the Office of Equity to consistently support designated groups of historically marginalized students across secondary (6-12 and 9-12) schools by increasing their access to positive role models, extended learning, and social, cultural, and racial identity enrichment. Student Equity Advocates support student development in positive racial identity through formal and informal mentoring and partnering with family- school- and community stakeholders with the aim of strengthening students’ sense of belonging and agency, relationships with their peers and community, and investment in education that will foster current and future success and life-readiness.
THEORY OF ACTION
IF we teach historically marginalized students the language of inequality, create spaces for them to interrogate racism and experience racial uplift, and support them in exercising personal agency, THEN they will develop a more positive racial identity that will result in:
- Positive self-perception
- Sense of belonging in/positive attitude about one’s own group
- Higher resilience, self-efficacy and self esteem
- Academic success
- Reduced risky behaviors
- Decreased stereotype threat
- Decreased effects of teacher discrimination
PRIMARY FUNCTIONS OF THE ADVOCATE ROLE
- Direct support to eligible students through: a) formal delivery of mentoring curriculum, b) formal and informal check-ins with individual students, c) off-site experiential learning opportunities, and d) Quarterly gatherings
- Partnering with school-based staff, central office staff, community providers, and parents/guardians to remove barriers and create access to opportunities
- Regular facilitation of racial equity professional development and coaching
At PPS, we expect every educator to invest in ongoing professional learning to grow in cultural competence and critical race consciousness. Because school systems across the United States were not designed for racially, ethnically and culturally diverse populations, but rather reinforce White, middle-class values as the standard, it is important for us to equip educators with essential learning around school leadership for racial equity, culturally relevant and sustaining pedagogies and antiracism. We will use this page to inform you of said opportunities that occur from within and beyond the District. We include courses you can enroll in through the PPS Professional Learning platform and courses, conferences, webinars and videos that you can register for or access directly.
Beyond Diversity: Courageous Conversations About Race
District staff participate in Beyond DiversityTM, a two-day seminar designed to help leaders, educators, students, parents, administrators and community participants understand the impact of race on student learning and investigate the role racism plays in institutionalizing academic achievement disparities.
Through Beyond DiversityTM participants gain a foundational understanding of the impact of race on students of color and a common language, to engage, sustain and deepen Courageous Conversations about RaceTM.
Professional Development Course Opportunities
More than 600 students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members registered for the University of Pittsburgh School of Education’s annual Center for Urban Education Summer Educators Forum (CUESEF). Co-sponsored by The Heinz Endowments, CUESEF 2021 explored the theme of “Forging Futures Through Black Educational Histories” over the course of June 16 - 19. The virtual conference consisted of nine mainstage plenary sessions with accomplished historians; 22 breakout sessions with book studies, discussions, and webinars; music breaks with DJ PVO; and a keynote address from Vanessa Siddle Walker, the Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of African American Educational Studies at Emory University. Click here for recorded virtual sessions and addtional resources.
The National Board Digital Academy will convene thousands of educators, providing thought provoking sessions on issues critical to the teaching profession. Participants will develop skills, learn from colleagues, build community and gain insight into National Board certification. You’ll be provided with certificates of participation that you can submit to your district for PD hours. Registration is free.
This virtual learning portal offers the following free mini-courses, led by Paul Gorski: Understanding Equity and Inequity; Learning to Be a Threat to Inequity; Ditching Deficit Ideology. Participants may enroll to engage in self-paced, online equity learning modules.
Yale University offers this free course designed to examine the African American experience in the United States from 1863 to the present. Prominent themes include the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction; African Americans’ urbanization experiences; the development of the modern civil rights movement and its aftermath; and the thought and leadership of Booker T. Washington, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. The course includes a full set of class lectures produced in high-quality video accompanied by such other course materials as syllabi, suggested readings, exams, and problem sets. The lectures are available as downloadable videos, and an audio-only version is also offered. In addition, searchable transcripts of each lecture are provided.
If you were unable to attend or would like to watch again, recordings of CUESEF 2020 panel dialogues are now available. Underexplored in this moment are schools and schooling which bear out the realities of education as sites of power and control. This year’s Center for Urban Education Summer Educator Forum (CUESEF) took a closer look at how various communities – youth, parents/families, community members, teachers, and administrators – have been affected in the wake of these crises. With this year’s theme, we fostered deep thinking about (in)justice and (un)learning in the U.S. and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, more specifically. Watch and listen for the sharing of ideas and strategies for intervention and change that insist on life, equity, and liberatory education as essential to the public good. Recordings are free, were open to the public, and moderated by author and activist Marc Lamont Hill.
Equity Documents and Materials
On October 28, 2015, the Board of Directors for the Pittsburgh Public Schools authorized the District to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) to maintain the District's commitment to the Equity Advisory Panel and the continued monitoring of the District's efforts to improve achievement for African-American students and to reduce racial disparities in the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The MOU expires August 30, 2020.
*Singleton, Glenn E. (Glenn Eric). Courageous Conversations about Race: a Field Guide for Achieving Equity in Schools. Thousand Oaks, California :Corwin, A SAGE Company, 2015. Beyond Diversity is trademarked by the Pacific Education Group.
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