November 2019

Equity in Our Schools

By Rose Karmoh-Thorp
“The U.S. Department of Education yesterday (September 10) approved the Rhode Island Equity Plan, which is designed to ensure that all students have equal access to high-quality education.” (View article from RIDE.)

Many of us are probably still settling in for a new school year trying to figure out how to execute goals and strategies we plan to use in this school year to bring the best out of our students and ourselves. It is good to see RI advocating for its students and teachers, and it is good to see an approved plan ready to be put in place. As I read through the plan, there is nothing to disagree with, in my opinion, but it will take some time and effort to implement to the extent that everyone feels its impact. In the meantime, I find myself asking questions such as: What does it mean to me as a school counselor to ensure that each student has equal access? What are some tangible steps that I can take to provide equitable access?

I am approaching this initiative in several ways, four of which I would like to share here:
  1. Sensitivity: Several groups of people have been historically marginalized and under-represented. The people in these groups may require additional support in order to provide an equitable education
  2. Personal learning: One of the things most admirable about educators is that they are learners. A learner is always open to new discoveries and strategies. So, perhaps a great place to start in supporting the implementation of an equity plan is to do what we have been doing that has worked well for us and our students. Most if not all of us who are school counselors chose to be in the profession. We didn’t just fall into it. We chose it, perhaps because, as people who are drawn to service, we know that we can contribute our best in this area. We are problem solvers. We have a strong desire to meet the needs that we see. We are needed more than ever in bringing positive and effective changes to equity in education in Rhode Island schools. Educating myself by going to workshops and conferences, and exploring topics that will help me understand how to bring greater equity to my school community will be of great benefit to my personal learning.
  3. Empathy: Empathy, not sympathy, shows respect and a desire to learn about how to meet the needs of the students and families to whom I am delivering service.
  4. Advocacy: I work to show those parents that I am with them in advocating for the best services for their children, and I provide tools that help students and parents advocate on their own behalf.
Those are some of the ways I want to continue supporting equity in my school community. I hope you find best practices that will lead to stories of how equity in Rhode Island schools is changing the face of education for all of us. And I hope you share your findings with this amazing community of school counselors that we are fortunate to be a part of.

Rose Karmoh-Thorp is a school counselor at Dr. Edward A. Ricci Middle School in North Providence, R.I.