Removing Barriers to Equity

Aug 22, 2023

Removing Barriers to Equity

Today, there is a lot of talk about diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in education circles and among many critics of public education.  And while it seems that DEI is a new and sometimes controversial topic, the fact is that educators have been removing barriers to equity for students for a long time.

When I returned to Carmel High School in 2012, I assumed the responsibility for developing the building’s master schedule.  One former superintendent once shared with me during my time in the Rye City School District that when you know your master schedule, you know your building.  In Carmel, there was an annual ritual performed each August and September.  Counselors and Pupil Services personnel scrambled to amend individualized education plans (IEPs) because the master schedule did not support students' programs.

For example, that year, 2012-13, a student whose IEP required a special education science class was unable to take the required science course because he was also enrolled at BOCES.  The required science class was only offered in the afternoons while the student was attending his classes at BOCES. This conflict was inexcusable. 

During the 2012-13 school year, I spent a lot of time examining the scheduling process to identify the barriers that prevented students from accessing their academic program as defined by Committees for Special Education. 

That spring, with the assistance of department chairpersons, we plotted out our special education classes strategically.  In the summer of 2013, as counselors reviewed their students’ schedules, one counselor advised me the schedule “fit like a glove.”

In Goshen, I saw that mainstreaming attempts fell short of the intended goal when students whose IEPs included co-taught science classes placed them in classes that were designed for students who needed remediation.  To promote equity and access, the Science Department and I removed the barrier to special education students so they had access to a full range of science courses to achieve full mainstreaming of students with learning differences. 

Upon arriving in Red Hook in 2018, the status quo required students taking Math 8 with grades below 75 to take two years of Algebra rather than one year despite passing the class.  Understanding that enrollment in remedial Algebra limited students' options in the future, the Assistant Superintendent and I removed that barrier so students who passed Math 8 had the opportunity to take higher level courses like Pre-Calculus later in high school that many competitive colleges sought. 

Designing schools for equity is challenging but rewarding work.  To remove barriers that past practice and norms hold in place so that students have equal access to the school’s program is a moral imperative for many educators.  In looking back at my time as an educational administrator, it is probably this work with which I am most proud.  And it is the people who collaborated with me– department chairpersons, teachers and district administrators– in this work of whom I am most proud.