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Deep-Listening Initiatives: Confronting Racism and Inequality in Education

The events and protests of the past several weeks have shone a much-needed light on the racial inequities still inherent in many of America’s most important institutions. While advocates are rightfully focused on reforming what policing looks like, this inflection point in our history is also spurring school leaders and advocates to take another hard look at inequities in our communities and education systems.

As the conversation around social injustice and systemic inequality intensifies, K-12 superintendents and their school boards will need to share where they stand on these very important issues, especially when it comes to what changes can be made to make our local and national education systems more equitable. More importantly though, schools should be actively listening to the opinions, suggestions, and concerns of their communities.

K12 Insight is currently working with our school district partners to help set up deep-listening channels using our customer experience solution, Let’s Talk!.

Let’s Talk! provides a dedicated, “always-on” place for students, parents, staff, and others to submit their questions or concerns around racism and inequality. It also provides district leaders and staff with an easy way to track the responses to those submissions and engage community members in a vital two-way conversation.

Here’s how two of our district partners are using Let’s Talk! to encourage an important, two-way conversation with their communities.

Tuscaloosa City Schools, Alabama

This week, Dr. Michael Daria, superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools in Alabama, in conjunction with the district school board, released a  statement on racial inequality and invited community members to share their comments, insight, and questions using Let’s Talk!.

The TCS “Open Forum 2020” page, which the district is also sharing on its social media channels, encourages the school community to engage in a meaningful dialogue to develop actions for improvement. Next, they’re introducing a Let’s Talk! texting line to make it even easier for community members to speak up—anytime, from anywhere.

Since the aim is to listen and learn before taking any new action, Tuscaloosa set up an automatic response message confirming that they are strictly in a listening mode right now:

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. Usually we work to respond in 48 hours, however we recognize that in this moment it is imperative that we listen. We will be reviewing all submitted feedback and using it to structure our new equity plan. Our community feedback is essential to the success of our district. We are honored to continue to serve you.”

 Chesapeake Public Schools, Virginia

In a recent post on his “Listening and Learning” blog, Dr. Jared Cotton, superintendent for Chesapeake Public Schools (CPS) in Virginia, wrote:

“And as we prepare to send the Class of 2020 out into the world, I found myself compelled to share a message with them and with our entire school community as recent events have added a new layer of complexity to the world our young adults will inherit. These events have shined a light on the systemic inequities and disparities that continue to exist in our nation and on issues that cannot be ignored…”

Like Tuscaloosa, Chesapeake created a listening channel in Let’s Talk! called “Share Your Thoughts.” CPS then sent a Let’s Talk! campaign, “Let’s Hear It: Speak Up CPS,” to community members letting them know about this listening channel and inviting them to submit their comments, concerns, and questions.

As Dr. Cotton wrote in his blog post:

“I want every member of our school community to know that your Chesapeake Public Schools family is here for you. We are not silent. We are listening. We are learning. We are here, and we will navigate this challenging time together.”

The district hopes that Let’s Talk! can be an important channel to encourage that listening and learning.

Want to set up your own deep listening channel for your district community? Contact your Let’s Talk! implementation manager today or schedule a demo with one of our Let’s Talk! experts.