In her latest post, Director of Admission Tami Milles-Atterberry reminds us that diversity is crucial to an inclusive learning environment. –Ed.
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I recently attended a conference hosted by Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City. The conference, Reimagining Education: Teaching and Learning in Racially Diverse Schools, focused on issues of diversity in the educational system. Each day was filled with a wealth of information, thought provoking ideas and questions around themes of diversity and inclusivity. The first day focused on why “Reimagining Education” was important to consider. The rest of the week highlighted “Racial and Cultural Literacy,” “Equity Pedagogy,” and “Culturally Sustaining Leadership.” The conference provided the opportunity for myself and four UCDS teachers to reflect on how our community of teachers is integrating diversity into our curriculum and the importance of learning multiple perspectives.
We asked ourselves if the books, scientists, mathematicians and historians we teach about reflect the students in our classroom.The most thought provoking question I heard was simply stated: Does your curriculum reflect what students see when they look in the mirror? I thought that was such an easy way for all educators to consider their classroom design and curriculum, especially when I learned the astonishing fact that 85% of teachers are white. Yet, for the first time in the United States, our student population in grades K-12 is over 50% students of color. In light of this statistic, I reflected on the racial diversity growth at UCDS over the past 5 years. In 2012, UCDS had 26% students of color. Within five years, our community has grown to 33% students of color. While this increase makes me proud to share, I know our teachers and administrators would like to see us reach the national statistic and reflect the larger national community. Therefore, diversity outreach is a high priority for the admission office at UCDS.
We dedicate our time, energy and funds to attend educational fairs strategically located in neighborhoods around Seattle. We attend the Independent School Fair for People of Color, the Eastside Fair, Northend Fair, Preschool Preview by Parent Map and Jack and Jill Education Fair for African American families. This type of outreach allows us to meet the greater community and speak individually with families that may not be aware of independent schools, and in particular, UCDS. These efforts have proven to be effective in reaching families beyond the U-District zip codes and have drawn families from all around the greater Seattle region. It all starts with entering the local community, sparking a conversation, encouraging tours of the school, and then transforms into a new student and family at UCDS. Diversity and inclusivity are on the forefront of many conversations in the educational world and will continue to be important to UCDS teachers and administrators.