Equity and Cultural Competency

We believe in building and sustaining a culture of kindness in the Issaquah School District. Doing everything we can to support ALL students to thrive is at the core of our mission. In order to thrive, students need to be treated with respect and kindness by adults and other students. They need to have a positive sense of belonging and the belief that they have the power to be successful. Our responsibility is to educate students as informed citizens, to teach them to respect other perspectives, and to show kindness to others.

As our community evolves and demographics change, we are charged with reshaping our practices to best meet the needs of our students and families we serve. As we work toward accomplishing our mission, we pledge as a school district to question, grow, and evolve in our understanding of diversity and what it means to be culturally competent. 

Equity is about treating all children as the individuals that they are, not treating all children the same. That’s why we are deeply committed to ensuring that all students receive what they personally need to develop to their full potential and succeed, and to narrowing the achievement/opportunity gap between our highest and lowest performing students.

A special video message from the Superintendent

Superintendent Thiele affirms his commitment to students of color and their families to work toward an inclusive school system that welcomes all.

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Message from Superintendent Ron Thiele Superintendent Ron Thiele affirms his commitment to students of color and the... Posted May 29, 2019

A video message from the ISD School Board 

The Issaquah School District School Board explains their vision of and commitment to equity to benefit all students within the District.

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Equity Video - Issaquah School Board Issaquah School District Commitment to Equity Issaquah School Board. Posted March 26, 2018
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Recruiting and Supporting Diverse Staff

Recruiting and supporting a diverse staff is a focus for the Issaquah School District as our enrollment grows and our demographics evolve. There is evolving research that shows students academic achievement is improved when their classroom instructional role models are someone who looks like them. 

The students in the ISD learning community have benefited from the increasing diversity of our learning community, particularly with regard to our classified staff and those that volunteer in our schools. The opportunity to interact with adults who can share a breadth of experiences, a variety of spoken languages, and even simple things like new types of food, broadens a student’s ability to interact with someone new. As well, it makes it possible for students to take comfort interacting with people and traditions that are familiar.

We still have work to do recruiting and supporting diverse teaching and certificated staff. It is especially challenging for us as across the nation, the teaching profession is becoming more female and more white and Washington State is experiencing a significant teacher shortage.. While we are challenged, we are nonetheless committed to hiring a diverse staff. We search for staff who can articulate an openness to learning themselves while engaging a variety of student experiences and approaches to learning. The Danielson Framework, which is the foundational evaluation document for our certificated staff, has a commitment to equity throughout, with the focus of creating an environment of respect and rapport so that all students feel valued and equipped to succeed. Public education thrives on creating and responding to an honorable, thinking, skillful citizenry. We are committed to building a staff who can engage students in critical thinking, particularly on how their culture, values, beliefs, and traditions influence their thinking and how they view their experiences.

Professional Development for Staff

Research suggests that an incremental approach to cultural competency training may lead to the greatest impact. With that in mind, we are providing ongoing professional development and engagement opportunities for staff to strengthen their abilities as culturally competent educators. Five years ago we began training our administrators in cultural competency in order to support their learning and empower them as equity leaders. Dr. Caprice Hollins and Ilsa Govan have been our primary equity mentors and teachers, deepening our awareness and understanding about bias and stereotypes. We began providing training in cultural competency with teaching staff in 2016-17 and will continue this journey of learning with all employees for years to come. A partnership with the Puget Sound Educational Service District Equity Department is also supporting our work. Additionally, consultants such as Gary Howard, Glenn Singleton and Dr. Shawn Ginwright have shared their insights and promoted reflection and analysis.

Curriculum Development and Implementation

As we re-examine our curriculum, our goal is to provide materials and programs that explore the experiences, perspectives and contributions of multiple cultures, groups and individuals. We used an equity lens to develop elementary social studies curriculum that includes multiple points of view, primary resources, and the use of culturally responsive instruction. Similarly, the district will be updating middle and high school social studies curriculum to be more representative of diverse cultures and perspectives in the 2020-2022 school years.

In the spring of 2019, all elementary classroom teachers were provided with a collection of counter-narrative books. A counter-narrative offers a positive alternative to a widely accepted stereotype for people who have been marginalized. Counter-narratives give people a voice who might otherwise not have one and they can be used to share a different point of view. Our high school language arts materials selection committee is recommending a diverse set of texts to be adopted in 2019-20.

Ensuring Equitable Opportunities for Students

The Issaquah School Board is committed to equity, and has been working toward the goal of including an equity focus in our learning goals (ENDS) for all students. The Board is also working to develop governing policies to ensure an equitable and culturally supportive environment exists for students, families, and staff.

The ISD Equity Advisory Group, formed in January 2015, meets regularly to hear from one another about barriers to learning, positive steps being taken, and to advise the district on ways to improve equity in our increasingly diverse district. The group of parents, teachers, para-professionals, administrators and community members in the ISD represents multiple voices and perspectives from different racial, ethnic, religious and other groups.

Family Engagement and Partnership
The ISD Family Partnership Team was formed in 2015 for the purpose of supporting families in navigating the school system. The group offers resources in a variety of languages, hosts district-wide events throughout the year, collects feedback from parents and seeks to support families in partnering with the district to strengthen all students’ success.  

Issaquah School Board Members and Administration Staff Take Part in Equity Training as Part of  May 8, 2019 Teacher Work Day

School Board Equity Training on May 8, 2019Dr. Caprice Hollins facilitated “listening sessions” with our School Board for students, parents, and staff members of color to share their experiences in the Issaquah School District. Successes, barriers and suggestions were discussed in order to inform the Board regarding future equity work. Dr. Hollins is shown here supporting the Board in reviewing the input from these listening sessions, and setting goals around family engagement, equitable access, curriculum development, and recruitment and retention of diverse staff.

Pictured clockwise from top left: Assistant Superintendent Teaching and Learning Emilie Hard; Dr. Caprice Hollins Cultures Connecting; ISD Board President Harlan Gallinger; Director Marnie Maraldo; Director Anne Moore; Director Suzanne Weaver; ISD Superintendent Ron Thiele; Director Sydne Mullings; ISD Director of Equity Alaina Sividasan; and Executive Director Teaching and Learning, Rich Mellish