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Serving Educational Equity

Guest(s): Sonya Murray-Darden and Gwendolyn Y. Turner
Date: 09/25/2023
Run time: 31:37
Season 6, Episode 4

Planning for equitable accelerated learning is analogous to preparing a meal. Similar to a chef selecting the menu, gathering ingredients, and planning the occasion, educators choose aligned curricula to prioritize learning to help students internalize instruction. Straight from their new book Serving Educational Equity, Sonya Murray and Gwendolyn Turner share with listeners how to distinguish acceleration from remediation, establish effective foundational instruction, expand student engagement for all students, and use student excellence as the driver for full equity.

Sonya Murray-Darden Photo

Sonya Murray-Darden

My "why" has evolved throughout my experience serving students in numerous educational settings as a professional developer, classroom teacher, leadership coach, reading specialist, administrator, and researcher. But no experience entirely shaped my why, like losing my former student who was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri. His death would spark public protests, social unrest, and outrage within my community and beyond, forcing much-needed conversations across the country about the role of social justice in schools.

Mike was a gentle soul who loved math and was part of my reading club. There was much in the news media about his tragedy, but what I knew as his former teacher was that he loved math even after graduating from high school. I wanted to think the teaching and learning he received, and the information I poured into him as a student, influenced his love of mathematics. Ironically, his tragedy occurred the same day I graduated from college with an advanced degree, causing me to reflect deeply on the external and internal influences of teaching and learning and my personal "why." As I pondered the many sacrifices of my parents and teachers, I concluded that the work of equity is about using education as a vessel to change lives. The educators I encountered influenced my life trajectory and educational experiences. My path began as a student in an urban school district with teachers who cared and provided the foundational learning I needed to succeed, but I didn't live in an area where schools were "considered" the best. My mother decided to transition my siblings and me to a desegregated school by eighth grade, riding a school bus for nearly an hour each way to a new school community. This community was very different from where I was raised and was considered "a better educational opportunity." 

As I traveled across town to a school that offered more opportunity and access, the program offerings were better, but I felt isolated. I was invisible. The experience helped me understand the difference between "intent" and "impact." The school was challenging and rich in experiences, intending to diversify educational experiences for all students by offering more opportunities, yet the impact was a stifled voice. I quickly learned that serving equity requires elevating the voice of the underserved, choosing the right curriculum, understanding the impact of external influences, building relationships, and reflecting on the instructional decisions we implement when we elevate students' possibilities.

Ultimately, I founded Equity Matters Consulting, a consulting company focused on helping educators advance education by giving students a voice and a seat at the table. Our team focuses on adult learning theory to disrupt the status quo in schools and organizations using a practical, inspirational approach. I began testing parts of the serving educational equity framework with practitioners over the past few years. I assembled strategies from our recent day-to-day consulting experiences with schools and organizations to offer as best practices in this book.

Educational equity shines a spotlight on our expectations and asks us to reflect on how we hinder or elevate opportunities for students to have a better life. We should center a vision of excellence for every child, no matter their zip code, background, or linguistic ability. Our book supports practitioners with resources to operationalize educational equity using actionable practices that ensure educational equity for all students.

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Gwendolyn Y. Turner Photo

Gwendolyn Y. Turner

As an educator who has worked in numerous educational settings: classroom teacher, substitute teacher, reading specialist, adult educator, administrator, educational consultant, teacher educator, college professor, and researcher, I have learned to respect both the teaching and learning process. One can expect culturally, linguistically, and academically diverse students in any educational setting. My career as an educator started in a rural area and later with migrant populations, in which very few opportunities for economic advancement were available for families. These families taught me the importance of resiliency and the timeliness of quality, relevant educational experiences that allowed students to acquire tools such as problem-solving, reasoning, and critical thinking. Tools that could be used in both academic and general life settings. We did not have time to waste on meaningless or irrelevant learning activities because a quality educational experience would be a ticket to greater life opportunities. When I started working with educators and visiting classrooms in Bolivia and Brazil, I realized that quality education does not just prepare students to complete school assignments but prepares them for all of their life experiences as adults, parents, employees, and citizens. In America, we take education for granted, but my experiences in schools and classrooms in South Africa and Thailand reinforced my belief that education changes lives. We serve students best when we honor their voices, acknowledge their identities, and value their life experiences.  Students who receive a quality education have many more life opportunities than those who receive an inferior education.  Too often we provide the best educational resources, activities, and experiences for those students who are already advantaged. Equity is a lens that educators can use to ensure all students reach their full potential. I believe in respecting the teaching and learning process. I believe that a quality education improves the quality of one’s life. Lastly, I believe that as an educator, I can help students improve their life trajectory.
As I worked in suburban and urban educational settings, I realized that students enter a classroom expecting to learn, to be engaged, and to have their opinions matter and their voices heard. My beliefs, practices, and actions can profoundly impact the learning success of students regardless of their academic abilities, cultural background, or linguistic ability. We are not helping students complete assignments for class; we are assisting students in the tools they need for success in their lives. This is why I have embraced educational equity throughout my career. I believe that educational equity provides opportunities for all students to soar academically.
Our work as educators is to help students acquire the tools they need for both careers and life. Therefore, it is imperative that we provide instruction that meets students’ academic and social needs. Respecting the rights of students to experience rich, meaningful learning experiences has been the cornerstone of my work as an educator.  This is a lesson that I have embraced in my work in this country and as a visiting instructor in Bolivia, Brazil, Thailand, and South Africa. I believe that students want to learn and experience success while learning.  All students deserve intellectually challenging, relevant, and engaging learning activities in a supportive environment. Education is still the key that unlocks opportunities for students now and in their futures. 

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Peter M. DeWitt Photo

Peter M. DeWitt

Peter DeWitt (Ed.D) is the founder and CEO of the Instructional Leadership Collective. He was a K-5 teacher for 11 years and a principal for 8 years. For the last 10 years, he has been facilitating professional learning nationally, and internationally, based on the content of many of his best-selling educational books. 


DeWitt's professional learning relationships are a monthly hybrid approach that includes both coaching and the facilitating workshops on instructional leadership and collective efficacy. 

Additionally, in the Summer of 2021, DeWitt created a year long on-demand, asynchronous coaching course through Thinkific where he has created a community of learners that include k-12 educators in leadership positions. 


DeWitt's work has been adopted at the state level, university level, and he works with numerous school districts, school boards, regional networks, ministries of education around North America, Australia, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the U.K.


Peter writes the Finding Common Ground column for Education Week, which has been in circulation since 2011. In 2020 DeWitt co-created Education Week's A Seat At the Table where he moderates conversations with experts around the topics of race, gender, sexual orientation, research, trauma and many other educational topics. 


Additionally, DeWitt is the Series Editor for the Connected Educator Series (Corwin Press) and the Impact Series (Corwin Press) that include books by Viviane Robinson, Andy Hargreaves, Pasi Sahlberg, Yong Zhao and Michael Fullan.


He is the 2013 School Administrators Association of New York State's (SAANYS) Outstanding Educator of the Year, and the 2015 Education Blogger of the Year (Academy of Education Arts & Sciences), and sits on numerous advisory boards. 

Peter is the author, co-author or contributor of numerous books. Click on title to purchase. They include:
Dignity for All: Safeguarding LGBT Students (Corwin Press. 2012).

Flipping Leadership Doesn't Mean Reinventing the Wheel (Corwin Press. 2014)

Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most (Corwin Press/Learning Forward).

School Climate: Leading With Collective Teacher Efficacy (Corwin Press/ Ontario Principals Council. 2017).

Coach It Further: Using the Art of Coaching to Improve School Leadership (Corwin Press. 2018). 

Instructional Leadership: Creating Practice Out Of Theory (Corwin Press. 2020).

Collective Leader Efficacy: Strengthening the Impact of Instructional Leadership Teams (Corwin Press. Learning Forward. 2021).

De-implementation: Creating the Space to Focus on What Works (Corwin Press. 2022). 

Leading with Intention - Developing self-awareness to fostering an unreasonable human interconnectedness to impact the school community (co-authored with Michael Nelson. Corwin Press. 2024).

Peter's articles have appeared in educational research journals at the state, national and international level. His books have been translated into numerous languages. 

Some of the organizations Peter has worked with are the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), Learning Forward, National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), University of Oklahoma, Cognition Education (New Zealand), Australian Council for Educational Leaders (ACEL), Victoria Department of Education (Australia), University of Rotterdam (Netherlands), Washington Association of School Administrators (WASA), Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), the National Education Association (NEA), New Brunswick Teacher's Association (Canada), the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Education Scotland (Scotland), Glasgow City Council (Scotland), Kuwait Technical College (Kuwait) the National Association of School Psychologists, ASCD, l’Association des directions et directions adjointes des écoles franco-ontariennes (ADFO), the Catholic Principals’ Council of Ontario (CPCO), and the Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC), National School Climate Center, GLSEN, PBS, NPR, BAM Radio Network, ABC, and NBC's Education Nation.

Learn more about bringing Peter DeWitt to your school or district at petermdewitt.com

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A Five-Course Framework for Accelerated Learning

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