Student-Centered Approaches to Equity, Empathy and Engagement in School

A former principal shares five tips for how his former school approached the challenge of prioritizing racial justice and educational equity in a predominantly White, middle class, rural high school.

How does a predominantly White, middle class, rural high school in Vermont prioritize racial justice and educational equity? Mike McRaith, former principal of Montpelier High School and current assistant executive director for the Vermont Principals’ Association, shares five tips for how his former school approached this challenge:

  1. Know thyself
  2. Do the homework
  3. Use data
  4. Interrupt microaggressions
  5. Look around

Though these read like simple tasks, they’re actually strategic as research-informed and student-centered moves. In a recent article for the Rowland Foundation, Mike explains in more detail this approach and how it can yield greater equity and empathy in a high school environment.

Read his full article, “Improving Equity and Empathy at School.”

To get additional ideas for how you can support your students and help them support each other, watch two videos from Edutopia about The Springfield Renaissance School (the school’s principal, Arria Coburn, is one of our Distinguished Fellows). These videos show how the Springfield Renaissance School uses CREW to be responsive to students’ needs and contributions, and to promote more just academic and behavioral outcomes. CREW is the idea that we are all team members, not passengers, moving toward a crucial destination which is the co-creation of a learning environment in which all crew members will succeed. Good stuff! Check it out at:

This blog is part of the Student-Centered Learning Research Collaborative Equity Series by JFF and KnowledgeWorks and created with support from its funders. Learn more about this work.

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