The Boston Globe has launched a weekly Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are starting new businesses, conducting ground-breaking research, and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to reporter Edward Fitzpatrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week’s conversation is with Karla E. Vigil, chief executive officer of the Equity Institute.
Question: When was the Equity Institute formed and what is its mission?
Answer: The Equity Institute is an education-based nonprofit organization founded in 2019 to help ensure young people have access to educational experiences that allow them to build the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in the world. Based in Providence, the organization partners with schools and community-based organizations to build culturally responsive communities. In addition, the Equity Institute leverages a diverse community of educators to promote diversity and equity in their school communities and beyond.
Q: What is the goal of the monthly meetups and events organized by EduLeaders of Color? Where are the meetings and how do you find out about them?
A: EduLeaders of Color RI is our core initiative. The monthly meetups are social gatherings designed to expand the social capital of educators and leaders of color while connecting them with community organizations and resources they can utilize in their spheres of work. The monthly meetups feature reputable speakers, valuable networking opportunities, and a welcoming atmosphere. We host our monthly meetup in various locations across the city of Providence. The next meetup will take place on Thursday, Dec. 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Visit our website www.theequityinstitute.org to learn more.
Q: The Johns Hopkins University report on Providence public schools talked about “the lack of diversity of Providence’s teaching force.” What are some steps Rhode Island can take to recruit and retain teachers of color?
A: Research confirms that students of color who experience being taught by teachers of color are more likely to be academically successful than their peers who do not experience being taught by an educator who looks like them. It is also important to acknowledge that teachers of color not only support the academic success of students of color but also benefit all students.
A few recommendations we make in our “Recruiting and Retaining Teachers of Color” policy brief include: Support school districts in developing and expanding recruitment programs, as well as teacher preparation programs to ensure that they are successful at recruiting, mentoring and supporting teachers of color. Create an accountability system that includes measures of how recruitment and hiring practices affect teacher diversity (including teacher retention and attrition). Change licensure requirements to allow candidates to show their qualifications through a broader array of performance assessments to avoid the racial disparity associated with traditional exams. And increase support for culturally responsive and equitable pedagogical practices for teachers.
Q: The Johns Hopkins report said Rhode Island has an insufficient focus on developing “pipelines of teachers of color.” What is the single biggest step the state can take to develop that pipeline?
A: While no single step will be sufficient in addressing the small number of educators of color, Rhode Island potentially can make large gains by investing in innovative teaching pathway programs that recruit highly qualified nontraditional students and developing compensation packages that make teaching a financially sustainable career.
Q: What is one education innovation you would like to see undertaken by Rhode Island’s new education commissioner, Angélica Infante-Green?
A: In an effort to drive systemic change, we would like to see the commissioner develop a school transformation team tasked with providing capacity building assistance to ensure students access a quality education no matter their school community.
Q: What does success look like for your organization -- what is a measurable goal you are striving toward?
A: We envision an educational system that recognizes identity and human connection is central to the process of teaching and learning and ensures young people have access to educational experiences that allow them to build the knowledge and skills they need to thrive in the world. Our goal is to operate in 80 percent of small to mid-size majority-minority urban school districts in the country within the next 10 years by sharing our model with interested, qualified organizations and education agencies.