Cover: Supports for Implementing Equitable Practices in the K–12 Classroom

Supports for Implementing Equitable Practices in the K–12 Classroom

A Qualitative Study of Teachers' Perceptions

Published Mar 14, 2024

by Allyson D. Gittens, Elaine Lin Wang, Maya Rabinowitz

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Research Questions

  1. What messages do teachers report receiving about how to teach traditionally underserved students?
  2. Where do the messages come from that teachers report receiving about how to teach traditionally underserved students?
  3. How do teachers operationalize the messages that they report receiving about how to teach traditionally underserved students?
  4. What types of resources and support do teachers report needing or wanting to support traditionally underserved students?

Public schools in the United States have become more diverse over the past two decades, and there is an emerging push for equity considerations in instruction in public schools across the country. However, there is a lack of clarity around the types of messages that teachers receive about teaching with an equity lens and how teachers enact equitable practices in the classroom.

In this study, the authors interviewed 45 teachers of mathematics and English language arts in kindergarten through grade 12 and examined the messages that these teachers reported receiving from various sources as they relate to equity and how teachers operationalize such messages to teach students from traditionally underserved backgrounds (i.e., students with Black or Latino backgrounds, English learners, students with disabilities, and students from lower-income households).

Key Findings

  • Roughly one-third of teachers reported a lack of messaging about teaching traditionally underserved students.
  • Teachers who reported receiving messages about teaching traditionally underserved students perceived messages about culturally responsive teaching, trauma-informed teaching, and tailoring instruction.
  • One-third of teachers reported receiving such messages from professional development and peer collaboration opportunities and from leaders at varying levels of the education system.
  • Teacher initiative is a driver for incorporating equitable practices into instruction.
  • Some teachers reported implementing equitable practices into their instruction, such as incorporating diverse perspectives into their curricula.
  • Teachers identified specialists and coaches outside the traditional classroom and professional development as key resources for supporting diverse learners.
  • Several teachers voiced the need for effective, concrete guidance regarding how to incorporate equity into their instruction.

Research conducted by

This study was sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and conducted by RAND Education and Labor.

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