While the COVID-19 pandemic has presented numerous challenges to school districts across the nation, a new policy brief from University of Washington College of Education researchers outlines how district leaders are reshaping policies and practices to advance racial equity.

The brief, “Promising District Leadership Practices for Transformative Change in the Context of COVID-19,” focuses on the leadership practices of districts in Washington’s Puget Sound region to provide models and resources anchored in high-quality instruction toward the goal of dismantling white supremacy.

“As we move into a new school year, we’re encouraged by what local districts are already implementing to sustain new practices and continue to design a coherent system that values and nurtures Black, Indigenous and People of Color,” said Professor Jessica Rigby, principal investigator of the UW’s Systems Leadership for Math Improvement group. Rigby co-authored the brief with SLMI research team members Professor Elham Kazemi, post-doctoral scholar Stephanie Forman (PhD ‘18) and doctoral students Lamar Foster and Sarah Clancey.

Three recommendations are offered in the brief:

  1. Focus on “building on” not “learning loss”. Value learning that happens at home and in communities, systemically seek out family needs and desires, and provide resources to build on the agency, power and strength of children, families and communities.
  2. Prioritize relationships. Elevate conversations and questions about how to integrate building community and relationships with families and students. Attend to social-emotional learning in hybrid and online settings as an integral part of content-focused learning plans.
  3. Create anti-racist, systemic coherence. Center the voices and experiences of Black, Indigenous and People of Color in designing instructional policies and practices by establishing and using equity-focused processes and tools.

The Systems Leadership for Math Improvement group engages with educators in the critical work of reshaping school systems and improving leadership and teaching practices to support high-quality learning opportunities for historically marginalized students. In partnership with school and district leaders in the Puget Sound Roadmap Region, it explores problems, develops tools and designs processes that support leaders to rethink systems and approaches for implementing ambitious mathematics instruction. 


Jessica Rigby, Professor of Education

Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu