Welcome! Read the latest issue of PROGRESS, featuring civics programs in Virginia. Read PROGRESS

From the VDOE: EdEquity & Community Engagement

The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) recognizes that education is our most effective tool to reduce poverty, address racism, and sustain economic advancement for all Virginians. The Commonwealth is committed to ensuring that students and families in Virginia, regardless of  their race, economic status, or the languages they speak at home, feel welcomed in their schools. There has been significant work over the past year at the VDOE and through the Board of Education to put actions toward this responsibility, including the establishment of an Office of Equity and Community Engagement at the VDOE.

EdEquityVA is defined as VDOE’s commitment to eliminating the predictability of student outcomes based on race, gender, zip code, ability, socioeconomic status, and/or languages spoken at home. Virginia has developed a clear vision of education equity, which includes establishing and reporting on measurable goals that support closing student achievement gaps and advancing academic rigor for all students and requires that students have access to high-quality learning programs that enable them to maximize their potential.

The Office of Equity and Community  Engagement leads these statewide efforts and is strategically focused on the following priorities:

  1. Increasing the cultural competency of Virginia’s educator workforce
  2. Eliminating disproportionality in student outcome data
  3. Closing opportunity gaps among marginalized student groups

The Office of Equity and Community Engagement initiated the annual Mary Peake Award to recognize leaders in the area of equity; the first awards were announced in December during the inaugural EdEquityVA Week. This award is named for an adult educator! Mary Peake taught free and enslaved Black children and adults in the Hampton Roads area before and during the Civil War. Learn more about this founding mother of  adult literacy.

Adult education has a unique role in the advancement of educational equity in com- munities in Virginia. Adult education practitioners should be proud of the work that we do to serve the most vulnerable families in our communities; to provide opportunities for adults to improve their academic, English language, and vocational skills; and to help parents be more involved in the education of their children. We serve an extraordinarily diverse student population and help our students achieve a wide variety of goals. We help close achievement and opportunity gaps. And there is so much more that we can do.

The priorities articulated by the Office of Equity and Community Engagement cannot be left to words alone. We need to support and invest in teachers and pro- grams in order to build our capacity and change our mindsets to address these priorities. The articles in this newsletter and the professional development opportunities offered by the VDOE and VALRC are meant to inspire, educate, and energize us to question our current practices; find ways to listen to our students’ voices; and ensure that opportunities are equitably available to—and more importantly, accessed by—all students.

Actions that each of us can take to affirm our commitment to addressing EdE- quityVA include:

  • Attending workshops, webinars, and learning events that build our cultural
  • Joining a professional learning community, a peer group, or online community to engage in deeper learning and dialogue on the issue of equity.
  • Examining our student outcome data and instructional practices with an equi- ty mindset to determine actions that can generate positive change.
  • Developing our outreach and recruitment practices with an equity mind- set to make sure that all students and community groups are aware of and understand the opportunities that are available to them and that underrepresented groups are actively recruited.
  • Creating opportunities for students to voice their perspectives and engage in solutions to these challenges.

We look forward to working with adult education practitioners across Virginia to address educational equity and increase outcomes for all of our students and communities. Stay tuned to EdEquityVA for resources, announcements, and learning events on this topic.