State Boards in Nebraska, New York, and North Carolina Advance Equity Agendas amid Challenging Times
Alexandria, VA – Efforts to advance educational equity are challenging in the best of times, as conflicting beliefs, policy agendas, or political views can stymie progress. The pandemic and the strife over racial injustices compounded these difficulties in 2020. A new NASBE analysis follows the work of three state boards of education and agency staff—in Nebraska, New York, and North Carolina—who are pushing for meaningful change in their state systems.
As participants in NASBE’s Leading for Equity and Excellence Program (LEEP) State Policy Network, Nebraska, New York, and North Carolina built teams of state board members, administrators, principals, and teachers to engage diverse perspectives on institutional racism, poverty, and other barriers to closing achievement and opportunity gaps. The teams committed to several steps:
- Nebraska’s state board made public commitments to advance educational equity and worked with the state’s department of education to create tools to help school leaders assess the equity implications of their decisions.
- New York prioritized the use of evidence-based research in state board policymaking and consideration of diversity, equity, and inclusion in policy discussions.
- In North Carolina, the state board organized a peer network for equity officers in school districts across the state, audited board policies to foster equity, and provided technical assistance to help align state and local efforts.
- All LEEP participants sought to forge partnerships with local decision makers to advance equity and help school communities stay the course.
Other state boards have undertaken a range of equity-related policy actions. Illinois and California, for example, are revising educator preparation standards to include cultural competencies and provide training for teachers.
“Every generation of Americans gets its own set of challenges and opportunities,” said Eric Davis, chair of the North Carolina State Board of Education, during a recent NASBE meeting. “We don’t get to pick what challenge or opportunity we have. We sure do get to pick how we respond.”
As a nonpartisan voice in state education policymaking, state boards are uniquely placed to help eliminate the political divides that impede decisive action to end inequities in learning. By partnering with local officials, setting clear equity goals, convening multiple stakeholders, and posing meaningful questions at the board table, state boards can set the long-term vision for creating more equitable education systems.
NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances.