We are in the midst of two pandemics: a health pandemic in the form of COVID-19, and a social justice pandemic in the form of deep-seated and pervasive systemic racism. NCSI has been working actively since early March to support educators, families, and policymakers to respond to the crisis that the coronavirus is wreaking on our educational systems, and we will continue to do so. Herein, we are now publicly committing to also taking action to support increased state capacity to deconstruct the systemic racism that pervades the education of children and youth of color with disabilities.
This moment in American history has created a new national consciousness about the persistent inequities wrought by systemic racism, including the treatment of people of color by law enforcement, the healthcare system, and the education system. Charged with supporting states to systemically improve outcomes for students with disabilities, NCSI is in a pivotal position to help our state education agency clients and their stakeholders to explore the intersection of race and disability in education, and to resolve those inequities specifically within special education that disadvantage students of color. Given longstanding challenges with the disproportionate identification and discipline of students of color with disabilities and the alarming gaps in various educational outcome measures when disaggregated by race and disability status, there is so much more work to do to ensure special education meaningfully supports the negation of systemic inequities, rather than contribute to them. But merely making a statement will not make a notable difference in the way that students of color experience education or realize academic and behavioral outcomes as a result of those experiences. Action is needed. NCSI is committed.
We are committed to systemically embedding within our work the intentional analysis of how race and ethnicity affect outcomes for students with disabilities and how systems can improve in response to increased awareness and understanding. While we already support state and local systems in the foundational areas of data literacy, stakeholder and family engagement, research-informed practices, and systems coherence, we will expand our focus in these areas in ways that intentionally address implicit bias and work to eradicate it.
- To increase data literacy, we will challenge the status quo by routinely disaggregating and analyzing data by race and ethnicity, and engage stakeholders in conversation about what those data may mean about the flaws in the system.
- To identify, plan, and enable the implementation of evidence-based practices for teaching and learning for students with disabilities, we will push the construct of culturally sound instruction that mitigates the effects of unconscious bias.
- To meaningfully engage students, families, and stakeholders, we will ask hard questions about authentic and diverse participation, including the degree to which representatives can authentically speak for the students who are served by the system and the extent to which new and different voices are sought, especially those that represent students who are often failed by the system.
- To consider the coherence of their systems, we will ask how existing and developing policies perpetuate racism or actively combat it, and we will help clients develop and sustain policies that promote educational equity as a foundational platform for the success of every student.
We make this pledge purposefully and publicly. Every system is perfectly designed to achieve the results it produces. Our educational systems must do better. And the good news is, they can do better. We are committed to action that makes us part of the solution. Let’s do this.