UNCG Greensboro education professor and Democratic candidate for state superintendent Dr. Jennifer Mangrum has proposed that the Department of Public Instruction take more leadership in driving equity work in the state by establishing an Office of Equity Affairs.
As superintendent, Mangrum says she would create a position of Deputy Superintendent for Equity and use findings from the WestEd report to set goals and provide support and professional development to LEAs who are struggling with providing the equitable education that is our students’ constitutional right.
The WestEd report, published in December, holds that closing equity gaps in North Carolina will “require a multifaceted approach that addresses the adequacy, quality, and diversity of the supply of both current and prospective teachers.”
Veteran Charlotte Mecklenburg educator and advocate Amanda Thompson thinks increased leadership in equity is one crucial change that needs to take place at DPI: “An equity office is important as we want to maximize the access and opportunities for all, especially our underrepresented populations. Equity must be addressed with who we are attracting and retaining as educators and through in-depth ongoing training on cultural competency.”
According to extensive research by North Carolina nonprofit Center for Racial Equity in Education, the influence of race “functions to diminish both the access and the outcomes of non-Asian students of color.” In addition to other actions, CREED recommends improving access to rigorous coursework such as AP classes, disrupting racial disparities in school discipline, and working toward more equitable deployment of teachers.
While many of the policies that govern those aspects of education are created at the county level, Dr. Mangrum believes a state-level equity initiative will go a long way toward helping counties that want to tackle equity barriers but don’t have the resources or know-how to do so.
Michelle Burton is a public school media specialist in Durham and president of Durham Association of Educators. She sees tremendous need for the Department of Public Instruction to take a more active role on equity. “We have to do more to ensure that students across North Carolina are being treated fairly and that their personal circumstances are not a hindrance for them being successful in school,” she says. “Establishing a DPI Office of Equity Affairs will enable us to take a broader look at equity issues and work together toward equitable education outcomes for all North Carolina students.”
Early voting in the North Carolina primary for state superintendent is underway, and election day is Tuesday, March 3.