Color of Education Summit Addresses Equity in Education

North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation staff arrived in full force on October 26th at the Color of Education Summit, an all-day racial equity learning opportunity that brought together policymakers, educators, nonprofit leaders, community members, parents, and students to discuss topics related to race, equity and education in the state of North Carolina.

Attendees of the summit were invited to keynote sessions with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Ali Michael. Michael discussed why addressing race explicitly in schools is critical — research links positive racial identity in students to social and academic success. Coates read from his first work of fiction — the recently-published Water Dancer — and had an on-stage conversation with Duke University professor Dr. Adriane Lentz-Smith, who studies African-American and 20th century US history.


Sumera Syed, Mary Mathew and Mandy Ableidinger from NCECF attended breakout sessions. Short summaries from each of the attended sessions are included below. 

The Racial Equity and Early Childhood Education breakout session discussed the history of racial disparities in early childhood policies and how policymaking can promote equity for students of color. Iheoma Iruka, a social justice researcher with HighScope, challenged the audience to consider how many early childhood initiatives were originally developed to address the needs of Black children who were not ready for school. Iruka stressed the importance of positive racial identity development at an early age and actively engaging families of color in addressing systemic barriers. Increasing funding for early childhood research explicitly focused on racial equity was identified as a need.

A session by the Wake County Office of Equity Affairs presented Systemic Approaches to Addressing Racial Equity in SchoolsThe presenters (Dr. Rodney Trice is pictured) shared a model for recognizing and addressing systemic racism from OpenSource Leadership Strategies — the same model that was used to support the development of the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework. They introduced concepts of Adaptive Leadership from Ron Heifetz at Harvard University to help participants think about how to lead on racial equity. Participants chose an education topic at their tables — one topic chosen was chronic absence — and walked through the proposed Adaptive Change Protocol for Equity Leadership, which led our table to: (1) Define the adaptive challenge, (2) Identify the motivation for change, (3) Outline the elements of the challenge, (4) Determine who should be involved, (5) Plan for work-avoidance mechanisms and (6) Create adaptive solutions. 

Presenters from Discriminology and Village of Wisdom led a session titled What If We Measured The System as Much as We Measured Students? They shared research-validated tools, co-created with parents and partners, that help to quantify how culturally responsive and racially equitable schools are at the institutional level. Participants discussed current systems-level measures used in schools, and how these tools could be used to provide new measures that promote equity in their schools and communities.

A panel discussion on Strategies for Recruiting, Supporting and Retaining Educators of Color addressed innovative practices in two school districts, a historically black university, and from the nonprofit sector to attract more students of color to the teaching profession and support their continued success. The panelists highlighted the lack of comprehensive state-level policy to support building a pipeline of teachers of color — one of the actions recommended in the NC Pathways to Grade-Level Reading Action Framework (see page 36). A one-day summit on this same topic is scheduled for December 10, sponsored by the Governor’s Office and the Hunt Institute. The panel was moderated by LaTanya Pattillo from the Governor’s Office and included:
  • Dr. Valerie Bridges, Superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools (pictured)
  • Dr. Anthony Graham, Provost of Winston-Salem State University
  • Dayson Pasión, Middle School Equity Specialist for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Equity and Inclusion Office
  • Mario Shaw, Co-Founder of Profound Gentlemen (pictured)

State and Local Policymaker Perspectives on Racial Equity in Education featured a panel discussion with North Carolina General Assembly Representative Graig Meyer and Senator Jay Chaudhuri, and Board of Education members Monika Johnson Hostler of Wake County Public Schools and Minnie Forte-Brown of Durham Public Schools. Panelists shared their lived experiences with race in North Carolina’s education system and encouraged parents to be stakeholders in propelling state and local representatives to pursue racial equity in schools. Forte-Brown stated that serving Black children in schools will ultimately serve all children well. 

Resegregation of students in North Carolina has been on the rise since 1995, according to the panelists at the School Resegregation: Trends and Possible Solutions session. Using the Coleman Segregation Index, a tool that measures the racial imbalance across schools in an area or district, segregation between white and Hispanic public school students is the same as between white and Black students in North Carolina. The more choice families have in selecting schools for their children (public, charter, private, etc) the more chances for resegregation increase. A strategy to combat resegregation of schools in Mecklenburg County was a comprehensive student assignment review, which made socioeconomic status a priority in the school choice lottery, pairing affluent and high poverty schools to create diverse schools. 

The Color of Education Summit was hosted in partnership with the Public School Forum of NC, The Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity, and Policy Bridge at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. The 2018 Color of Education event featured award-winning New York Times Magazine reporter and NC native Nikole Hannah-Jones.