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How Are You Designing with

Equity at the Core? 

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The fact that you’ve arrived here shows that you’re committed to building a stronger and more equitable future for students with disabilities. The Educating All Learners Alliance (EALA) created this website to support your efforts.


On this site, you’ll find resources, tools, sample plans, and case studies organized by nine key challenges, including creating safe structures and routines, prioritizing high-quality learning, social-emotional learning, and support for trauma. We know that schools will face these challenges, and more, as they plan for reopening buildings, possible resurgence of the virus, and beyond. Each challenge is an opportunity to reopen with a stronger foundation—one with equity at its core.


The pandemic has exacerbated existing education inequalities for students who have historically been marginalized by our education system. Within this context, we acknowledge that we’ve all played a role in perpetuating systemic bias and exclusion. And now we all must play a role in dismantling it. As we prepare for reopening, let's work together on these complex challenges to create more equitable schools. 


What Guides This Site


In creating this site, our goal is to ensure that the education needs of the students who have been made most vulnerable by the current system are prioritized. Beyond the pandemic, our aim is to support educators to design with equity at the core. 


As you take on each challenge, we suggest that you commit to being a humble learner. Our circumstances and conditions are constantly changing. No one has a perfect solution. In this work, we must be willing to change and grow, always in service to our students. 


How might we be humble learners together? In our own work, we’ve found the following strategies useful:


  • Question your assumptions: Whether intended or not, we might make assumptions about the ability of certain students, fail to explore our own biases and privilege, or fail to ensure marginalized voices are heard. For example, racism, ableism*, and their intersections are often embedded in our assumptions of what a student should be. 


  • Reframe the challenges you face: When schools focus on the learner as the “problem,” solutions tend to fall short because they don’t address the root cause of systems’ failures. Reframe from “How do I retrofit this solution for the kid who is not average?” to “How can we design learning environments to enable all learners?”


  • Engage a representative team: Think about who might be marginalized by the possible solutions to the challenge you’re trying to address. Questions you can ask to identify this team include: 

    • Who are the five students in your building who most need you to get this decision right? 

    • Which teachers work most closely with those students?

    • Which families have given you input on relevant challenges in the past? Which families have not traditionally engaged, and why? 

    • Who else will be impacted by this decision? Who will have different responsibilities or work conditions?

    • What community partners may have relevant knowledge or assets?


  • Explore and collect perspectives: Now ask yourself, “How can I build empathy for their needs?” Use multiple approaches to get the deepest possible understanding of student needs and ensure they are centered in the design: 

    • Leverage historical information from prior surveys, data, and community engagement

    • Give everyone an opportunity to share their experience and needs via surveys and town halls

    • Learn deeply from a few individuals—those “vital few” you’ve already identified above—via targeted empathy interviews, journey maps, or other ways to understand a “day in the life” from their perspective

    • Leverage research from others outside your school or system to inform your thinking


  • Gather tools and information that define the landscape: Based on the challenge you’re trying to define, you may need additional information to identify context and constraints. These may include student demographics and data, IEP data, school building capacity/maps and codes, community resources, etc. 


  • Identify a range of solutions and test them: Identify a range of ideas that might work. Get feedback on these ideas from all your stakeholders and from the “vital few” you identified. Use the feedback to monitor, refine, and continuously improve your systems. 


We hope to learn and grow with you. Please consider this site an invitation to engage, work together, and share learnings. You’ll find an invitation to discuss strategies and share resources within each challenge—we do better when we learn together!


The Educating All Learners Alliance (EALA) Team

* We define racism not solely as prejudice directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group. Rather, racism involves one group having the power to carry out systematic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of the society and by shaping the cultural beliefs and values that support those racist policies and practices. We define ableism as the discrimination and exclusion of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that non-disabled individuals are superior. For those not familiar with ableism, Tom Hehir describes it as the devaluation of disability that results in societal attitudes that uncritically assert that it is better for a child to walk than roll, speak than sign, read print than read Braille, spell independently than use a spell-check, and hang out with non-disabled kids as opposed to other disabled kids. (Hehir, 2002)