How equity walks can be leveraged by boards to further success for all students

By Nicole Anderson

As governance teams lead for equity through continuous improvement to close equity gaps, it is critical they become data savvy through a process of embracing and monitoring both quantitative (test scores, grades, etc.) and qualitative (equity walks, surveys, etc.) data to inform, adjust and monitor policies and practices across school sites and the district.

Equity walks provide a space for governance teams to develop their lens and understanding of what equitable practices look like in classrooms and on the school campus. They also serve as opportunities for board members, district leaders and site administrators to take a deeper dive into the collection of qualitative as well as quantitative data to inform, adjust and monitor policies and practices across school sites and the district. The equity walk tool guides the professional learning space for educational leaders and can be used to assess the overall progress towards equity goals. Equity walks support the ongoing monitoring of implementation of equity impact action plans but require additional data points to obtain conclusive findings and measuring the impact of equitable practices (i.e. surveys, interviews, etc.).

It is important that governance teams set conditions and safe space for conducting equity walks as they do not serve as audits, assessments nor any form of an evaluation of teachers, staff or administration. Equity walks could be rolled out as professional learning experiences to assist governance teams, school leaders and their teams in practicing and understanding what equity looks, sounds and feels like in real time. These equity walks should follow an extensive workshop series experience to ensure context and clarity on the definition of equity, the barriers to equity and the solutions to creating equity.

When conducting equity walks, teams gather low-inference observational data to confirm or challenge assumptions regarding closing equity gaps for target student groups. These observations should focus on the existence and impact of cultural identity, relationships, relevance and rigor in classrooms and around the school. Research shows that these four equity indicators correlate with increasing student achievement and closing other equity gaps.

Recommended next steps:

  1. Leverage an equity task force/committee consisting of a diverse group of stakeholders across the district to engage in learning, discussion and collaborating around concepts of educational equity.
  2. Utilize a sustainable systems approach to closing equity gaps through resources such as the article, “Waters of System Change,” which supports a focus on addressing the root cause of equity gaps at six levels in the school system.
  3. The equity task force/committee should develop an equity impact action plan to provide recommendations to district leadership and the school board as well as to guide and monitor the school district’s equity-driven work.
  4. The equity impact action plan can consist of the following components to support sustainable change:
    • Goal: Identify target group based on quantitative data
    • Focus areas: Identify focus areas based on quantitative achievement data (i.e., English language arts, math, discipline, school climate, staffing)
    • Root cause: Unpack the barriers to equity through the six conditions of systems change (found in earlier referenced article); focus on the impact of target student groups through learning their stories and interrupting the stereotypes and implicit bias associated with their demographic labels
    • Action/metrics: Identify actions that will sustainably address the needs of identified student groups
    • Utilize equity walks and professional development to further collect qualitative data that informs conclusive findings in conjunction with quantitative data around identified equity gaps and evolve an equity impact action plan to guide next steps. Next steps can include identifying additional actions of the equity task force/ committee to inform equity impact action plan (i.e. survey question development, interview question development, equity walks, community/home visits based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, language, etc.)

Essential questions to discuss with your fellow board members:

1. Equity statement: Has your governance team adopted an equity statement to provide common language and a lens that can be applied to all aspects of district policy and practices?

2. Equity policy: Has your governance team adopted an equity policy to provide clear direction and guidance to the superintendent and their designees on the implementation and monitoring of actions outlined in the policy and administrative regulations?

3. Equity plan: Does your governance team have an equity plan that drives the implementation of the equity policy through:

    • Strategic questions asked of the superintendent/staff
    • Agenda building
    • Decision-making (voting)
    • Prioritization of governance work
    • Measure/evaluate the impact of action steps

4. Effective governance practices: Does your governance team participate in study sessions focused on building capacity to lead for equity and closing equity gaps for identified student groups through demonstration of the eight characteristics of effective governance teams?

5. Support and accountability: Does your governance team provide resources for staff, such as ongoing professional development and tools to lead for equity, while monitoring effectiveness and impact through reviewing quantitative and qualitative data with the superintendent and staff?


Nicole Anderson founded  Nicole Anderson and Associates Consulting, LLC in 2018 to realize the closure of equity gaps in school districts and organizations throughout the nation. The company is a CSBA business affiliate.