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Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity

Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity
A Leader's Guide to Using Data to Change Hearts and Minds

November 2016 | 264 pages | Corwin

When the numbers don’t lie, this is your guide to doing what’s right

According to federal data, African American students are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended or expelled. As a school leader, what do you do when your heart is in the right place, but your data show otherwise? 

In Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity, Edward Fergus takes us on a journey into disproportionality by engaging our hearts and minds on the presence of biases that create barriers to the success of students of color. If your school is faced with a disproportionate rate of suspensions, gifted program enrollment, or special education referrals for students of color, this book shows how you can uncover the root causes and rally your staff to face the challenge head on. You will:

  • Understand through compelling vignettes and case studies how bias affects policies and practices even in good schools
  • Know what questions to ask and what data to analyze to get to the root cause
  • Create your own road map for becoming an equity-driven school, with staff activities, data collection forms, checklists, and progress monitoring tools

If you are interested in developing a deep understanding of the policy, practice, and beliefs necessary for schools to address disproportionality and achieve equity, this book delivers all that and more.

"Through careful analysis of data obtained from real cases, Edward Fergus shows how disproportionality is manifest and how it can be thoughtfully addressed. For educators and policy makers seeking solutions to these complex issues, this book will be an invaluable resource." 
—Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education
UCLA, Graduate Schools of Education and Information Studies

About the Author
Changing Landscape of Teaching Force and Its Effect on Disproportionality

The Backdrop of the Integration Project Framework

Organization of the Book

Sample Road Map for Creating an Equity-Driven School
Chapter 1. Social Integration and Intensified Segregation Leading to Disproportionality
Post–Brown v. Topeka Board of Education Integration Patterns

Integration Project: Patterns of Student Enrollment Demographics

Integration Project: Patterns of Teacher and Principal Demographics

Chapter 2. Knowing the Bias-Based Beliefs in Disproportionality
Bias-Based Beliefs in Pedagogy and School Practice: How Does It Show Up in Schools?

Colorblindness Belief

Deficit-Thinking Belief

Poverty-Disciplining Belief

Chapter 3. Leadership Inquiry Skills for Building Equity Focus
Section 1: Understanding Your Data and Data System Capacity

Section 2: Practicing Analysis and Interpretation of Data: Case Studies

Chapter 4. A Process for Identifying Disproportionality and Building an Equity Plan
Step 1: Identifying Your Starting Place

Step 2: Root Cause Process for Understanding Disproportionality Problems

Step 3: Monitoring Equity Work: 3- to 5-Year Span of Work

Step 4: Progress-Monitoring Tools: Monthly Data Calendar

Additional Equity Examinations

Chapter 5. Building an Equity Belief School Climate
Leading Equity Competency 1: Know How to Manage Race Dialogues

Leading Equity Competency 2: Know How to Manage the Comfortable and Uncomfortable Tensions of Learning and Practice

Stage 1 Activities: Building Universal Equity Principles

Stage 2 Activities: Monthly or Quarterly Sessions on Bias-Based Beliefs

Other Ongoing Activities for Replacing Biased Beliefs

Application Activities

1. Data Inventory Worksheet

2. Planning Sheet for Addressing Beliefs and Building Equity Principles

3. Exit Ticket

4. Definitions of Educational Equity Worksheet

5. Applying Definitions of Educational Equity

6. Applying Definitions of Educational Equity: Homework Worksheet

7. Building Our Universal Equity Principles Worksheet

8. Shifting Deficit-Thinking Worksheet

9. Shifting Deficit-Thinking Survey Worksheet

10. Definition Flashcards

11. Shifting Poverty-Disciplining Belief Statements Worksheet

12. Shifting Poverty-Disciplining Belief Statements Survey Worksheet

13. Meritocracy Line Exercise

14. Dual-Axis Model of Vulnerability

15. Dual-Axis Model of Vulnerability Application Worksheet

16. Racial Timeline Worksheet

17. Racial and Ethnic Group Worksheet

18. Shifting Common Colorblindness Statements Worksheet

19. Shifting Common Colorblindness Statements Survey Worksheet

20. Cultural Responsibility Beliefs Worksheet

21. Looking at Books Worksheet

22. Observing Classroom Environments Worksheet

23. Equity Resources for Curricular, Culture/Climate, and Instruction


"Throughout the country, a growing number of educators have come to the realization that disproportionality in the placement of children of color in special education, and in school discipline practices, is a vital equity issue that must be confronted. In this important new book, Dr. Edward Fergus explains why this issue is so important and he shows what educators can do to solve the problem. Through careful analysis of data obtained from real cases, he shows how the problem is manifest and how it can be thoughtfully addressed. For educators and policy makers seeking solutions to these complex issues, this book will be an invaluable resource."

Pedro Noguera, Distinguished Professor of Education
UCLA, Graduate Schools of Education and Information Studies

"Solving Disproportionality and Achieving Equity addresses burning and significant needs and issues in the field, including areas in which districts are facing legal requirements for action. The synthesis of research, theory, application, with an acknowledgment of the interpersonal and emotional dimensions of this work all contribute to its value."

Gary Bloom, Senior Program Consultant
New Teacher Center

"I believe that this text has the potential to become a bible for every school leader who truly wants to examine the inequities in schools and then move forward with a comprehensive plan applying a sound analysis of the data."

William A. Howe, Educator
Connecticut State Department of Education
Key features
  • Responds to an urgent need to eliminate disproportionality in expulsions, suspensions, and referrals to special education that ultimately contribute to dropout, cycles of intergenerational poverty, and the playground to prison pipeline.
  • Informed by data (teacher surveys, disproportionality outcome data, satisfaction surveys, and state level data files) collected by the author for more than a decade as principal investigator and director of the statewide Technical Assistance Center on Disproportionality (TACD) in New York and principal writer of the state disproportionality plans for California Department of Education and Texas Education Agency.
  • Includes powerful vignettes based on the author's practice intended to move readers' hearts and minds.
  • Contains a number of valuable checklists, data collection forms, and checklists that contribute to effective school- and district-wide implementation.

Sample Materials & Chapters


For instructors

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