Letter to Our Community

Update On Our DEI Commitments

December 17, 2020

Lea la carta en español | Lire la lettre en Français | اقرأ الرسالة باللغة العربية | Li lèt la an kreyòl ayisyen


Dear Uncommon Schools Community,

As the year draws to a close, we wanted to update our entire Uncommon community on the diversity, equity, and inclusion commitments we made as part of our dedication to being an anti-racist organization that advances social justice. Grounded in our mission of preparing students to get to and through college, fulfilling these commitments and strengthening our DEI work has remained one of our organizational priorities this year, alongside prioritizing safety and learning during this continued pandemic. We are grateful to everyone who has engaged so deeply over the past several months in the actions we have taken and the progress we have made towards delivering on these commitments. Taking this journey as one Uncommon community is important to us and we look forward to our continued work and progress together.

SCHOOL CULTURE

We continue to focus on developing the caring and nurturing environments that enable our students to thrive both personally and academically on their path to college, with strong authentic relationships between teachers and students and effective school systems.

  • We continue to provide more flexibility for how students engage inside and outside of the classroom, including being thoughtful about what circumstances in learning from home may look like as well.
  • The importance of socioemotional well-being has never been greater, and student emotional learning and development is key to both wellness and academic success. Our Wellness Working Group has been researching and analyzing the field of socioemotional learning, and will train at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. We are excited to pilot a K-12 socioemotional learning curriculum this spring, in anticipation of a network-wide rollout next fall.
  • Schools continue to invest daily in community-building, both in remote and hybrid settings, where activities include team-building, core value lessons, discussions about current events, and goal setting for the week.
  • Students K-12 are also participating in three school DEI sessions. In middle schools and high schools, two students at every campus have been trained to co-facilitate these sessions alongside staff members from their school DEI team. It is inspiring to witness our young leaders engaging in self-advocacy and empowerment through these sessions.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT (PD)

Through ongoing trainings and discussions, we are continuing to focus on how we can be more diverse, equitable, and inclusive at all levels of the organization.

  • Every school has a DEI team of at least 2-3 staff members who have been trained to facilitate monthly campus-level discussions on issues of equity and inclusion, and we have also created a team of Home Office/Regional DEI PD facilitators as well.
  • All Uncommon staff participated in a foundational PD session designed to create a shared vocabulary and understanding around DEI issues and culturally responsive teaching.
  • School staff have continued to be trained on how to form strong learning partnerships with students, with an emphasis on culturally responsive teaching that leads to high instructional standards that meet the diverse needs and identities of our students.

CURRICULUM

We know how important and powerful it is for our students to see their diversity, culture, and identity reflected in their curriculum. Over half of our K-12 English and History curriculum last year focused on stories of people of color, and we have continued to deepen and improve our curriculum.

  • All of our curriculum has been reviewed from a DEI lens and our lead lesson planners have all been trained on how to be more culturally responsive when creating future materials.
  • We strengthened feedback loops to ensure we have effective communication and channels for sharing thoughts and improvements to our curriculum.
  • We are working on prioritizing additional texts that address issues relevant to and impacting communities of color and that focus on historical events from historically marginalized perspectives.

FEEDBACK AND ONGOING WORK

We are Uncommon because of our community and we get better by listening to and engaging with our community.

  • Promise54, a leading organization in DEI and talent work, has been helping us assess our DEI practices and will be working to help articulate our vision and roadmap to achieve that vision. To support this work, we have created an Uncommon-wide DEI Working Group with representation across regions, grade-spans, positions, and identities.
  • All Uncommon staff had an opportunity to share feedback on diversity, equity, and inclusion via an anonymous survey conducted by Promise54, and staff focus groups are being convened to allow for deeper input and insight. Staff will also be asked to share feedback via our usual mid-year staff survey when we return in January. We have also worked to clarify channels for everyone at Uncommon on where to go for support with concerns.
  • All families and all HS students will be asked to share their feedback about their Uncommon experience in a survey that will be sent in January. We look forward to the continued input and advice.
  • We have also begun to map out a vision for ongoing alumni engagement beyond support for college completion and will be engaging our alums later this school year for critical input.

We are proud of the progress we have made, while being cognizant of the continued work to do on our journey to be an anti-racist organization. Every day, we are honored and humbled that our students flourish as part of our community, that families choose to entrust us with their children, that our staff choose to join the Uncommon community, and that our external friends continue to support our work. We know it is because all of you believe in our mission and our schools as we do, and we look forward to continuing to grow even stronger as one Uncommon community in 2021.

Thank you,

Brett Peiser
CEO, Uncommon Schools

Julie Jackson
President, Uncommon Schools


Read past letters to the community | Lea las cartas pasadas a la comunidad | Veuillez lire les dernières lettres adressées à la communauté | إقرأ الرسائل السابقة إلى المجتمع | Li lèt pase yo pou kominote a:
 
August 14, 2020 | en español | dans français | باللغة العربية | an kreyòl ayisyen
July 2, 2020