- What is the Brentwood School Inclusive Excellence Racial Equity Initiative?
- What precisely do these terms mean: Diversity? Equity? Inclusion? Anti-racism?
- What is Inclusive Excellence?
- What are the purpose and goals of the Brentwood School initiative?
- What other DEI initiatives has Brentwood School undertaken in the last five years?
- How can I participate or contribute to this initiative? Who should participate?
- How can I stay informed on the initiative’s progress?
- Who is the external consultant conducting the research and making recommendations? What firm is leading this initiative?
- What are the goals of the surveys?
- How confidential are the surveys?
- What happens with the information and data collected during the initiative?
- What will the survey ask? How long is the survey?
- How do I access the surveys?
- Do I have to finish the survey all at once?
- If I do not finish the questionnaire or click “Submit,” will my answers be included in the survey data?
- When will the research results be available?
- To whom can I reach out with questions regarding this initiative?
This yearlong initiative is designed to build on our vision of being a safe, diverse, and welcoming top-tier school. Founded upon the concepts of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism, the project includes the following elements:
- A comprehensive review and assessment of Brentwood School’s learning environment, curricula, communication practices, and policies to uncover bias and cultural relevance.
- A scientific gathering of the lived experiences of current Brentwood School students, staff, faculty, parents, and alumni to identify core issues.
- Ongoing opportunities for dialogue through community-building events, dialogue sessions, and coaching around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) issues.
The insights gathered in these steps will inform the development of a multiyear DEI strategic plan with future monitoring criteria that will be implemented starting in fall 2021. While this initiative is ongoing, the school is not waiting but making other changes to improve our inclusivity.
Diversity: Diversity refers to all characteristics that make individuals different, including but not limited to primary characteristics such as age, race, sex, gender, ethnicity, mental and physical abilities, and sexual orientation, as well as secondary characteristics such as education, income, religion, work experience, language skills, geographic location, military status, family status, and more.
Equity: Equity refers to the process of closing opportunity gaps and creating equivalent outcomes for historically underrepresented and oppressed individuals and groups. Equity is about ending systematic discrimination based on people’s identities or backgrounds and achieving equivalent outcomes by group.
Inclusion: Inclusion exists when traditionally marginalized individuals/groups feel a sense of belonging. Inclusion empowers them to participate in the overall culture as full and valued community members without assimilating or changing. Their participation may shape and redefine that majority culture in different ways. Everyday inclusion ensures an ongoing sense of belonging.
Anti-racism: Anti-racism steps beyond being “not racist.” Because each of us has mostly likely internalized racially prejudiced concepts at some point, even if unconsciously, to assert that one is “not racist” is certainly to be in denial. Antiracism encompasses the belief that there is nothing bad, dangerous, or wrong with other racial groups, in combination with a willingness to: (1) Recognize society’s innate inequities, (2) Admit when we ourselves are racist, and (3) actively work to challenge racism by changing societal policy, messaging, law, and more.
The Inclusive Excellence (IE) model, created by Dr. Williams with the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU), launched the Inclusive Excellence movement in American higher education and beyond. Written in 2005, the monograph Toward a Model of Inclusive Excellence and Change in Postsecondary Institutions has been downloaded more than one million times. Notable institutions using the model include the University of Virginia, University of Missouri, Cal Poly, Rider University, Clemson University, and numerous others. The model was recently adopted to drive the racial equity and achievement agenda for the State of Virginia.
The IE model defines diversity as a comprehensive organizational change effort designed to build:
(1) Access and Equity: Increasing access and equity of outcomes for diverse students by building a welcoming community that engages all of its diversity in the service of overall student and organizational learning.
(2) An Inclusive, Multicultural School Climate: Establishing a multicultural and inclusive campus environment for all students, faculty, and staff. Paying attention to the cultural differences that learners bring to the educational experience and that enhance the enterprise. Establishing a place where all feel welcome and no one must assimilate to belong.
(3) Preparation of Students for a Diverse and Global World: Creating learning opportunities for students and training opportunities for faculty and staff that prepare them to lead in a diverse and global world and, more imminently, in a multicultural school community.
(4) Diversity Scholarship: The purposeful development and utilization of diversity-focused teaching, learning, scholarship, service, and creative endeavors to increase the institution’s overall cultural competency and knowledge around topics of DEI. Organizationally, IE means establishing an environment that challenges each student to achieve academically at high levels and each member of the school to contribute to that learning and knowledge development.
The Brentwood School Inclusive Excellence Racial Equity Initiative will support Brentwood School in emboldening its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and will help school leaders further foster a learning environment and culture of Inclusive Excellence. The initiative will support the Brentwood School community along its journey of developing an evidence-based approach and strategic plan to build DEI capacity across the entire school.
The initiative seeks to understand the lived experience of current Brentwood School students, staff, faculty, parents and guardians, families, and alumni, while offering opportunities for community-building and dialogue. The insights gathered during the first half of the initiative will inform the development of a DEI strategic plan for implementation beginning in the fall of 2021, designed to strengthen Brentwood’s ability to create an environment that is inclusive and excellent for all.
- Admissions: This office has increased accessibility to a wider range of applicants and has developed partnerships with organizations focused on families of color. Processes have been changed to more closely align with the school’s commitment to equity and inclusion.
- Hiring and Retention: Since 2016, efforts have resulted in over 20 key hires identified as Latinx and African American including, but not limited to, the following departments: Administration, Lower School Lead and Associate Teachers, Middle School Faculty, Upper School Faculty, Admissions, Communications, Service Learning, Counseling, College Counseling, Facilities, Equity and Inclusion, and Business Office. Over 50% of faculty hired for the 2020-2021 school year identify as people of color.
- Training: Faculty and staff are receiving required and ongoing multicultural training, which includes developing partnerships with Visions, Inc., The National Seed Project, and other professional development training programs.
- New Curricula/Courses: All faculty were challenged by the school leadership to examine current curriculum and practices with an eye toward anti-racism and DEI. LS, MS, and US classes have all been reimagined to include diverse experiences.
- Student Activities: Student DEI opportunities have been expanded in a variety of areas, including leadership development, affinity groups, conferences, and overall student programming.
- Strategic DEI Research and Implementation Plan: In the summer of 2020, the Brentwood School Board of Trustees authorized the Head of School to create a diverse hiring committee to interview and hire a consultant to do scientifically rigorous surveys and make recommendations toward a strategic DEI plan, resulting in the hiring of the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership and Social Innovation and the current yearlong initiative.
- DEI Department: In 2016, the school created the full-time position of Director of Equity and Inclusion and welcomed Dr. Trina Moore-Southall on board to accelerate our efforts in this key area. In 2019, we added a full-time Assistant Director of Equity and Inclusion, Mychal Johnson.
- Division Specialists: To increase accessibility and effectiveness, Equity and Inclusion Division Specialist positions were hired in each division as experienced LS, MS, and US faculty members. They began this work in December 2020.
For complete details on the ongoing Brentwood School DEI journey, view our brochure.
Current Brentwood School students, faculty and staff, parent/guardian affinity groups, and Brentwood School alumni are invited to participate in various elements of this initiative, including:
- Dialogue and Community-Building Sessions: Over the course of the initiative, the external research team will host a series of online dialogue and community-building sessions for current students, faculty and staff, parent groups, and alumni. Any and all of those who are interested in sharing more about their lived experiences at Brentwood School are invited to attend at least one of these sessions. Registration will open in January 2021.
- Open-Ended Social Culture Survey: This survey tool creates another opportunity for Brentwood School students—in addition to faculty, staff, families, and alumni—to offer confidential feedback directly to the external team leading this initiative. The survey link will be available in January 2021 and will remain open until March 2021.
- Project Office Hours: Beginning in January 2021, Brentwood faculty, staff, parents/guardians, and alumni are encouraged to leverage the expertise of the external research team by way of the initiative’s project office hours element. Participants can sign up for one-on-one or small-group meetings with a member of the external research team during specified office hours to: (1) Learn more about the initiative or share confidential feedback directly with a member of the external research team; (2) Ask questions and gain real-time feedback and advice on DEI-related items that arise in the classroom; and (3) Receive expert coaching from a DEI professional and educator.
From December 2020 through November 2021, the research team and Brentwood School leaders will host quarterly Inclusive Excellence Learning and Accountability Community Forums. These 90-minute online events serve as dedicated spaces for sharing and receiving updates and for ongoing community engagement related to this initiative. Brentwood School parents, guardians, alumni, and board members are encouraged to attend all such events to remain current on the program’s progress and to learn about new opportunities for participation. Register to attend these online community forums HERE.
Brentwood School has retained a neutral third party, the Center for Strategic Diversity Leadership and Social Innovation (CSDLSI), based in Atlanta, Georgia, to design, lead, and implement this initiative. Unaffiliated with Brentwood School, the Center specializes in DEI social climate research and strategy as well as organizational research and change management. Led by award-winning diversity pioneer, author, and educator Dr. Damon A. Williams, the Center brings a research team of seasoned educational and DEI professionals to Brentwood. Their team broadly reflects diversity in their backgrounds, gender identities, socioeconomic class, political perspective, age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability and language, among other factors. To learn more about Dr. Williams and the work of the Center, please visit DrDamonAWilliams.com and our Meet the Team web page [LINK]
There are two survey efforts in this initiative: (1) The Climate and Social Environment Survey and (2) The Open-Ended Culture Survey.
(1) The Climate and Social Environment Survey is an online questionnaire fielded only to current Brentwood School students in Grades 7-12. These survey findings will provide critical information for the school’s collective progress in increasing diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion. It is designed to:
- Assess the experience and social environment of Brentwood School for students in Grades 7-12.
- Better understand current students’ perceptions of belonging and satisfaction, and their ability to thrive and grow in the current BWS school environment.
- Deepen our awareness and understanding of instances of discrimination and prejudice.
- Gather unbiased data on general issues related to Brentwood School’s DEI climate.
(2) The Open-Ended Culture Survey is a simple online questionnaire that creates an opportunity for Brentwood students, faculty, staff, parents, guardians, and alumni to share their insights. The survey will:
- Establish a demographic profile of our students, staff, and faculty that we can continue to track.
- More deeply and accurately understand the on-campus experience of students, staff, and faculty and the current climate with respect to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion.
- Gather information in order to improve graduation, recruitment, and retention rates for diverse students, staff, and faculty.
- Collect thoughts, recommendations and experiences from the Brentwood School community (positive and negative) with regard to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Any research, including campus climate surveys or DEI inventories, conducted by CSDLSI is completely confidential and secure. Each participant’s identity is masked from Brentwood School, although the consultants running the survey will be able to see whether a participant is designated as a student, staff, faculty member, parent/guardian, or alumni. Only the CSDLSI research team will have access to all the data. CSDLSI enforces stringent privacy, confidentiality, and ethical research practices in all activities, going beyond minimum accepted requirements. Additionally, the team maintains strict data protection operations including secure data systems, access control, monitoring, and support.
The information gathered throughout this initiative will go on to:
- Establish a statistical baseline for measuring DEI climate in a way that can be repeated across time to establish progress toward goals.
- Ensure the 2021-2022 curriculum is designed to prepare all students to live and lead successfully in an increasingly diverse, global, and interconnected world.
- Inform the development of Brentwood’s DEI strategic plan and be used to refine policies, programs and services for implementation in fall 2021.
- Provide insight into key climate issues that warrant additional assessment or intervention.
(1) The Climate and Social Environment Survey is an online questionnaire fielded only to current BWS students in Grades 7-12. The survey takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. To create a demographic profile of the Brentwood School community, the survey will ask for information such as race, religion, gender, disability, etc. The survey will also ask students about their experience at Brentwood School, including whether they feel like they belong, have experienced discrimination or bias, and more. Many of these questions will use a scale of “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.” Finally, the survey will offer an option to write in stories of relevant experiences and other thoughts.
(2) The Open-Ended Culture Survey is a simple online survey that creates an opportunity for Brentwood School students, faculty, staff, parents/guardians, and alumni to offer confidential feedback about their perception of the school's social climate and any incidents of discrimination or bias they have experienced, directly to the external team leading this initiative. The survey takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. All eligible participants will receive an email with a link to the survey.
(1) To facilitate completion, the Climate and Social Environment Survey will be administered during designated class time in February 2021. Participating students (in grades 7-12) will be asked to complete the entire survey at that time. Participation and any responses to questions within the survey is voluntary.
(2) The Open-Ended Culture Survey will remain open and available for submissions from January through April 2021. Participants can start, stop and return to complete the survey another time, as long as they work on the same machine and within the same web browser in which they began the survey. It can be accessed with the original emailed link or if you leave the browser tab open.
The culturally relevant review and assessment of curriculum and Brentwood School facilities will result in a final report in May 2021 that will establish an evidence-based understanding of the lived experience across Brentwood School as it relates to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and economic background. These data will also help to establish a DEI scorecard baseline for our work moving forward.