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Choosing Courage Over Comfort: Texas Math Education Leaders Tackle Equity Challenges

September 13, 2019|By Alison Kothe

When it comes to the issue of math equity, our comfort is not at the center of this discussion. Our students are. We must choose courage over comfort. 

– Lynda Villanueva, Brazosport Community College, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs

As it becomes normative practice for educators to enact mathematics pathways aligned to students’ goals, it’s increasingly important that we better understand the many ways mathematics affects equity.

This summer, the Dana Center, with support from the Greater Texas Foundation, launched MathEquity Texas. This project convenes education leaders from across the state to plan and implement concrete steps towards improving equity in mathematics.

“The MathEquity Texas community is combining an exploration of the critical role of math in educational equity with bold and public commitments in ways we can address the disparities in the state of Texas,” said Carolyn Landel, Dana Center managing director. “Through this community of leaders, we hope to further our personal and organizational equity goals across the state.”

MathEquity Texas is a 24-member community of education practitioners, researchers, policy advocates, and philanthropists coming together to examine recent research on mathematics and equity and to identify concrete actions that each can take within their respective roles and institutions to make progress toward equity goals.

“For me, it is the first time I have experienced public education, colleges, and nonprofits all working together to transform education,” said Melissa Duarte, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at Goose Creek ISD.

The convening was a great experience, and I was completely inspired and moved by the beautiful collaboration between the group of educational and community leaders. I left empowered and motivated to help make a difference when it comes to math equity!

– Jose Ibarra, Ysletta ISD, math instruction specialist

Pam Burdman, senior project director of Just Equations, spoke to the MathEquity Texas community before their first face-to-face meeting. The Mathematics of Opportunity report, released last year by Just Equations, offers a clear baseline for the group as they think about the ways they can influence course requirements, instructional approaches, assessment, and communications in their organizations.

At the first MathEquity Texas convening, the community gathered to build a shared understanding of equity, facilitated by nationally recognized equity leader Nicole Joseph, assistant professor at Vanderbilt University.

MathEquity Texas committee members

“It was refreshing to be among a group of smart leaders who all care deeply about addressing issues of equity to improve mathematics outcomes for Texas students,” said Leslie Gurrola, Greater Texas Foundation director of programs and strategy. “I am inspired by the work already happening, enthusiastic about the commitments made—and look forward to staying engaged!”

The MathEquity Texas community also reflected on a snapshot of mathematics and equity research from across the state.

“I was both inspired and saddened by the equity data that was presented,” said Ravae Schaeffer, STEM and alignment lead at Region 20. “Inspired to use the data to make a difference in our community. Saddened by the idea that this is the current state for our students.”

At the end of the convening, the MathEquity Texas convening participants each developed individual equity commitments to action.

This convening was about empowering us as individuals to have broader impact in this space. I am going to use this information to support my organization's understanding of equity and the impact it has on employees and the work we do.

– Reo Pruiett, Educate Texas, senior director

For the next year, the MathEquity Texas community will take concrete steps toward achieving their commitments. The community will work together in small peer-to-peer groups and will also come together in full-group webinars to continue growing and learning together.

This group is committed to using its leadership, influence, and power to address inequities—and in so doing to inspire others to do the same.

The Dana Center will also work with MathEquity Texas community members to publish selected stories about this work here on the Dana Center blog. We invite you to read the commitments of MathEquity Texas and share your own commitments on Twitter with the hashtag #mathequity.

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Categories: News, Equity

About the Author

Alison Kothe

On long car trips, I used to do long division for fun. The more paper I could use for a single problem, the better. While my husband loves to tease me about this, I still find joy in solving problems using elegant strategies. As a communications professional here at the Dana Center, I infuse my love of mathematics into the stories I share.  

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