School Site Efforts
School Site Efforts (Elementary Level):
Elementary PTA Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) Initiatives: The District’s elementary schools have been collaborating closely with our PTA and PTA DEI board members this year. The DEI roles and initiatives were new this year and helped align the whole school district within diversity, equity and inclusion and family partnership. DEI initiatives that have occurred include evening critical conversation groups about relevant racial equity books and articles, as well as intentional collaboration between the PTA DEI members and the school-based Equity Teams. Through these partnerships, we have been able to align our school and parent community-based diversity efforts.
Elementary Libraries’ Culturally Responsive/Diverse Literature: The District’s elementary schools continue to diversify their library collections. We are working to ensure our students have access to a range of diverse books. Librarians have sought out books by authors of color, books with diverse characters and storylines, and books that provide a “window” into others’ cultures and experiences or a “mirror” that reflects our students' own unique stories.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Initiatives: Inclusiveness is an essential component of our social emotional learning curricula and programs across all elementary schools. This year, staff across our systems have refined and adapted our Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework to learning environments. PBIS serves to recognize and celebrate our scholars for their community contributions and commitment to classroom and school wide expectations. Inclusivity is a core value reflected in the PBIS system. Staff have also adapted our Second Step social-emotional learning curriculum to fit the hybrid learning model and meet the needs of all students. Within our elementary schedule, specific time is allotted within our school schedules to building community and engaging in these social-emotional learning activities, which center on a core developmentally-appropriate topic and tailored to students' diverse needs.
Great Kindness Challenge: In 2021 students at all four elementary schools took part in the Great Kindness Challenge. For two weeks in January, all students tried to engage in as many acts of Kindness as they could as a way to make their school a safe, accepting, and inclusive place.
Elementary School-Wide Information (SWIS) Data System: All of our elementary schools in 2021 utilized the SWIS data system to collect and analyze schoolwide discipline/behavior data. Data gathered in 2019-2020 using the SWIS tool has been used to inform school goals and targeted support plans based on student need for the 2020-2021 school year. We have continued to use this tool to review and respond to emergent student needs both in the remote and in-person learning environments.
Elementary School Site Examples of DEI Learning:
- Island Park Black Lives Matter in Schools: In partnership with parent leaders and the administration team, the Island Park Equity Team curated a collection of equity resources to support all staff with engaging in the Black Lives Matter in Schools initiative. Age and developmentally appropriate instructional materials were sources from a wealth of resources offered by Black Lives Matters in Schools, Seattle Public Schools, and Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance). The Equity Team offered whole staff professional learning and support prior to embarking on the six-week school-based initiative. Family participation has been encouraged throughout the entire planning and implementation process, including a “Black Lives Matter at Island Park” family Q & A Zoom forum hosted on an evening prior to the first week of learning.
- Lakeridge Equity and Diversity Initiatives: Equity and diversity actions and initiatives have been multi-faceted and focused on reflecting and supporting the diversity of the school community. Staff development has focused on topics such as PBIS strategies, de-escalation strategies, functions of behavior, relational equity, inclusive practices, and differentiation that meets the needs of diverse learners. Monthly student support team meetings, certificated Staff and PLC meetings, and classified staff meetings have dedicated time toward shifting to a more inclusive school model and inclusive practices for students with special emotional, social and behavioral needs.
- Northwood Equity Team: This year’s focus was on foundational understandings of race, racism, and whiteness within the history of the United States and public education. Each month, the Northwood Equity Team facilitated breakout discussions exploring topics such as: colonization and early models for American learning institutions, neighborhood redlining, policing, the Jim Crow Era, Brown vs. Board, Plessy vs. Ferguson, and standardized testing. The historical lens and critical conversation approach was based on the need to develop a common understanding and language around systemic inequities within our system. The next phase of learning will move from a broader context to that of the school and classroom, with the aim and purpose to identify and address inequity in our own system.
- West Mercer Equity Team: With this year’s SIP goal of eliminating the racial discipline gap, the Equity Team was focused on supporting staff in reflective activities that will bring to light each staff member’s implicit biases that are likely contributing to the differences in our discipline data. Professional learning sessions that the team has led have focused on understanding our current reality, considering our role in discipline, highlighting the importance of deeply knowing each student (honoring their humanity), and providing resources for each staff member to continue their own journey through improved racial and social justice as well as resources for teachers to bring this learning into their own classrooms.
School Site Efforts (Middle School Level):
Islander Middle School (IMS) Social Justice Elective: Race/Ethnicity, Sex/Gender, Sexual Identity: This course examines the role that identity and privilege play in everyone's lives, specifically examining the areas of race/ethnicity, sex/gender, and sexual identity. The class gives students a chance to learn about what goes on in our country and to empathize with people from many different backgrounds—starting with the other students in the class. Students will have opportunities to create group projects, conduct individual investigations, and participate in many group discussions about society and our place in it. The class encourages learning about our communities, our rights, each other, and the differences we can make together.
JUST (Justice & Understanding Support Team): IMS created three branches of JUST to promote and support a justice-oriented, anti-racist, anti-bias, inclusive community that supports students’ growth in their cultural agility, sense of self, and responsibility to themselves and others.
JUST Community is IMS’s connection to our broader community, focusing on larger systemic change (including data analysis and collaboration with community members) as well as school-focused educational opportunities for students and staff members.
JUST Guides is composed of staff members dedicated to reflective self-work and transformational change throughout IMS, including curricular and social-emotional elements that challenge and support students in their understanding of their own and others’ diverse experiences and identities.
JUST Students is composed of passionate, dedicated, curious, and informed students who believe in IMS’s ability to do better and be better. Through shared experiences with their classmates (e.g. student-produced videos and Black Lives Matter week) they work to give voice to student needs and agency.
IMS Co-Teaching: IMS has a “Co-Teaching” model in 5 classrooms, serving 6th, 7th & 8th grade students in Language Arts and 6th and 8th grade students in Math. Under the model, a general education teacher and a special education teacher work together to plan, implement lessons, assess and remediate/extend learning for all students in the classroom. A co-teaching model allows students with individual education plans to receive specially designed instruction in the general education setting, while maintaining access to grade-level, general education curriculum. All of our co-teaching pairs of teachers received training in the co-teaching model in the spring of 2019, and have received ongoing professional development on the “5 models of co-teaching” throughout the year.
6th Grade Language Arts Diversity Literature Circles: In an effort to give students access to not only rigorous and impactful literature but diverse perspectives and points of view, 6th-grade teachers developed a graphic novel unit embedded within our larger expository writing unit. The themes of the novels focus on topics of social justice, and the team specifically chose graphic novels to offer easier access and higher engagement around these challenging topics. Students begin the graphic novel unit learning about larger concepts of discrimination and racism in order to prepare them for the difficult material they will encounter throughout the rest of the unit. March v. 1 is a graphic novel written by John Lewis and details his fight for equality during the Civil Rights Movement. Teachers specifically chose this book to instruct students on how to read a graphic novel, but also to expose them to more information about American history. Often, this is the first time that students are deeply exposed to the Civil Rights Movement beyond what they learned about Dr. King in elementary school. Prior to and while reading March, teachers discuss the challenges of living in the segregated south, including how African-Americans were harshly treated. Students learn about Jim Crow laws and the nonviolence protest movement in response.
School Site Efforts (High School Level):
Student Voices for Change - A coalition of 13 BIPOC or marginalized MIHS clubs have come together to help with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion projects/events. The group is called “Student Voices for Change” and is being led by Assistant Principal Erica Hill. The students are leading the initiatives and ideas, but there are staff and parents helping to make sure the students’ passions are realized. The coalition of these clubs that share a similar mission has also improved communication between the students and the District in order to proactively identify and evaluate opportunities to enhance equity in MISD. Everyone realizes there is strength in numbers, so it’s exciting to see so many students with different perspectives working together.
The 13 MIHS clubs represented in Student Voices for Change include Queer Straight Alliance, Gender Equality Club, Student Group on Race Relations, Education Coalition for Asian Representation, Minds Matter, Safe Club, Art Club, No Place for Hate, Asian Collective Club, Holocaust Education Committee, Different Learners Club, Black Student Union, and Sparkle Effect Cheer.
New English Class: For the 2021-2022 school year, Mercer Island High School launched “English 12: Race, Identity, and Representation in Comparative Literature.” This course analyzes and discusses race and identity through multiple critical lenses, using both the texts shared by English 12 courses as well as works and selections that extend the curriculum to directly address issues of race, gender, sexuality, religion, class, ability, and culture in the modern world. Drawing from the lived experience of diverse writers, students will have the opportunity to understand and analyze how writing and expression provide an insight into the history of marginalized voices and can serve as a powerful tool for social justice. Students will build upon a knowledge of systemic racism/biases and its impact on the various identities and experiences being discussed and studied. Over the course of the year, students will engage with an assortment of texts, literary forms, and media sources; participate in discussions; conduct research; present; and develop as readers, writers, and critical thinkers with a more nuanced understanding of how race, identity, and representation matter in both the past and our present world. (NCAA Approval Pending)
Islander Hour: Following an incident of online hate speech last year, high school students, teachers, and administrators partnered to provide information and to support student discussion about the impact of the incident and ways that we can improve our school as a great learning environment for all students. Table talk questions were distributed to families, and campus leadership has used these ideas and feedback toward school improvement. Following and in continuation of this work, all students were engaged in our Race and Equity Series of lessons. These lessons include National Hispanic Heritage Month, American Indians and Discrimination, Black History Month, Holocaust Remembrance, Anti-Asian and Anti-Asian-American Violence Awareness, Juneteenth and National Women’s Month.
No Place for Hate (NPFH): Revitalized through direct connections to the ADL and our Islander Hour teacher team, NPFH provides teaching for students, teachers, and families. They convene regularly to provide an ongoing forum.
Hispanic History Month: During the month of October, all Islander Hour classes participated in the study and celebration of prominent Hispanic people and the contributions of people within the Hispanic cultures of our world. All grade levels had grade specific engaging lessons and were invited to join or partner with the Hispanic / LatinX Club.
Black History Month: All students engaged in two levels of work for Black History Month. Islander Hour focused lessons on Black History. Teachers partnered with the MIHS Student Group on Race Relations and created mini-lessons for each discipline, so that each teacher provided lessons within the content area that recognized the contributions/excellence of Black Americans and the challenges Black Americans face on a daily basis.
PBIS and the Islander Way: This year the high school staff, guided by the high school PBIS team, started the initial work of system development by conducting a review with our staff around commonalities and expectations for school-wide behaviors in teachers’ classrooms and throughout the school building. Early this winter, students and staff analyzed the existing “Islander Way” developed for 9th grade students several years ago and looked for ways to update and strengthen the focus of what it means to be an MIHS student and positive behaviors we seek. Instead of “rules,” students and staff are creating school-wide behavioral expectations through characteristics or traits we value as a school community.
CARE Team: Classified staff, with support from school administration and counselors, was reallocated during remote learning to contact and assist students who were referred by students, faculty, staff, or parents, as well as those with poor grades and attendance. This team was created to support students in their own self-advocacy, to connect them with counselors when necessary, and to connect them with teachers and staff that could help develop students’ executive functioning.
Pods: Students that demonstrated a high level of academic or social-emotional risk attended in-person, supported study groups that convened during and after regularly scheduled remote learning classes. With breakfast served and within a friendly environment, students were provided a quality study space and as-needed staff support.
Class Rank, Graduation Cap and Cord Committees: Based on years of research and work related to college admissions, MIHS will no longer assign class rank. MIHS made this decision to better represent each and every student to colleges and universities.