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Belonging and Inclusion in Identity Safe Schools
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Belonging and Inclusion in Identity Safe Schools
A Guide for Educational Leaders



August 2021 | 304 pages | Corwin
Lead an identity safe learning community where students of all backgrounds thrive

Students of all backgrounds reach their full potential when they feel a sense of belonging and inclusion. When their social identities are valued as assets rather than barriers to learning, they flourish. This guide provides evidence-based strategies that support you as a leader in creating an environment that promotes identity safe students, who experience a challenging curriculum that respects their diverse social identities. 
  
Features in the book include:

  • Guiding principles for student voice, equalizing status and cultivating acceptance across race, ethnicity, gender and other differences
  • Ideas and examples for anti-racist dialogue and activities for teachers and students that counter colorblind practices, stereotype threat and biases
  • Vignettes, and examples of identity safe practices for students and adult learning for staff, families and the community
  • Systems for student-centered assessment and data collection
  • Resources for developing equitable school policies and a comprehensive identity safety plan for your school


Educators fulfill the promise of an equitable education when students of all backgrounds know that who they are and what they think matters. Start the journey to become an identity safe school and see the results for yourself!


Belonging and Inclusion in Identity Safe Schools: A Guide for Educational Leaders is a timely and important book.  For several years, the nation's schools have been asked to focus their energies on raising student achievement.  However, too often educators have ignored the need to honor, support and affirm the identities of the students they serve.  For educators who serve children of color, particularly Black, Native American and Latinx children who are often subject to overt and covert forms of forced assimilation, this book will be an invaluable resource on how to create learning opportunities that make it possible for such children to thrive.”
~Pedro Noguera, Dean of Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California


“Bravo to authors Cohn-Vargas, Gogolewski, Creer Kahn, and Epstein for their ground-breaking book on Identify Safe Schools for Administrators and Teacher and Staff Leaders!  They provide much-needed evidence for educators to elevate and even inspire the equity, empowerment, and academic growth needed to wholly support all children to flourish in school and their lives.”  
~Debbie Zacarian, Director, Zacarian and Associates

 

 
 
About the Authors
 
Acknowledgments
 
Foreword
 
Prologue
 
Chapter 1: An Introduction to Identity Safe Schools
 
Chapter 2: Leadership for an Identity Safe School
 
Chapter 3: Adult Learning in Service of an Identity Safe School
 
Chapter 4: Data and Assessment for an Identity Safe School
 
Chapter 5: Identity Safe Partnerships with Families and the Community
 
Chapter 6: Coherence and Congruence
 
Chapter 7: Planning and Implementing Schoolwide Identity Safety
 
Epilogue: Closing Thoughts
 
Appendix
 
Appendix A: Equitable Data Inquiry Preparation Guide: Preparing for Equitable Data Dialogue, Analysis, and Reflection
 
Appendix B: Identity Safe Staff Self-Reflection Activity
 
Appendix C: Identity Safe Classroom Practices: Teacher Self-Assessment
 
Appendix D: Identity Safe Classroom Observation Form
 
Appendix E: Inquiry Calendar Planner
 
Appendix F: We–Why Reflection Tool
 
Appendix G: Identity Safe Formative Assessment Feedback Loop Reflection Questions & Planner
 
Appendix H: Developmentally Appropriate Conversations About Race and Gender With Children and Youth: Tips for Educators and Parents/Caregivers
 
Appendix I: Grades 3–5 Student Identity Safe Classroom Survey
 
Appendix J: Grades 6–12 Student Identity Safe Classroom Survey
 
Appendix K: Identity Safe Signature Strategies Spreadsheet
 
References

"Belonging and Inclusion in Identity Safe Schools: A Guide for Educational Leaders is a timely and important book.  For several years, the nation's schools have been asked to focus their energies on raising student achievement.  However, too often educators have ignored the need to honor, support and affirm the identities of the students they serve.  For educators who serve children of color, particularly Black, Native American and Latinx children who are often subject to overt and covert forms of forced assimilation, this book will be an invaluable resource on how to create learning opportunities that make it possible for such children to thrive."  

Pedro A. Noguera
Dean, Rossier School of Education, University of Southern California

"Bravo to authors Cohn-Vargas, Gogolewski, Creer Kahn, and Epstein for their ground-breaking book on Identify Safe Schools for administrators, teachers, and staff leaders! They provide much-needed evidence for educators to elevate and even inspire the equity, empowerment, and academic growth needed to wholly support all children to flourish in school and their lives."

Debbie Zacarian, Ed.D., Founder
Zacarian and Associates

"Based on a robust foundation of researched evidence and theory, and embracing ‘targeted universalism’, Belonging and Inclusion in Identity Safe Schools offers specific strategies for achieving systemic equity in schooling. The emphasis is on disrupting racism, but the integrative approach supports identity safety and enhanced belonging for a range of diverse student identities, and incorporates trauma-informed practices. Pathways toward transformative change are clearly set out for school leaders, teachers, families, and the community, across planning and assessment, and within school-wide systems. A unique blueprint for joyfully celebrating social identities as an asset rather than a barrier, equitably valuing all identities, and for affording voice and influence to diverse members of the school communities is presented. Importantly, the organic nature of identity is respected and the capacity of school leaders in creating identity safe spaces where ongoing conversation between and understanding of richly diverse identities can be fostered is foregrounded. In this powerful work, the authors urge us to face up to the uncomfortable truth that schools may not always be identity safe spaces and offer great hope for a positive and practical way forward."

Penelope Watson, Ph.D., Researcher and Senior Lecturer
The University of Auckland, New Zealand

Belonging and Inclusion in Identity Safe Schools: A Guide for Educational Leaders is an extraordinary book that should be read by teachers of all grade levels throughout the United States and beyond. Time is long overdue for this book that explains many of the inequalities in all areas of our institutions, from education to housing to incarceration…. The authors make clear how investment in a more inclusive society results in benefits for all people. I commend the authors!

Joan Korenbilt
Executive Director of the Respect Diversity Foundation

I applaud the authors’ focus on identity safety in the school community. Their approach celebrates and embraces unity in diversity. The identity safe approach goes beyond creating a physically safe school to addressing an emotionally safe school community. In an identity safe school, students embrace being themselves and can truly belong as unique individuals rather than try to fit into a stereotypical mold. The book's examples clarify what is unconscious “othering” and color blind behavior versus identity safe practices. This book is for everyone in the school community who cares enough to take action to influence a school's culture both in and outside of the classroom.

 

The book's formatting is so user-friendly. The format allows the school educator/ leader to go directly to the area their school wants to focus on for improvement. After reading Chapter One, which presents their approach and philosophy, the reader has the tools needed to use this book to focus on specific changes they want to implement and go directly to the chapter that speaks to race, religion, gender, etc., issues.

 

Each chapter addresses why a specific issue matters, followed by concrete examples of how to implement change. The talking points and questions for self-reflection add depth to the tools being taught to create identity-safe schools. Masterfully written for practical application!

Sue Tarr
Founder of The Clubhouse After School Caring and Sharing, Inc.

Belonging and Inclusion in Identity Safe Schools is brave, bold, and brilliant! Asking "How will each of us contribute to racial justice and educational equity now?" What are ways that each of us has intrinsically adapted behaviors that perpetuate the dysfunction of our society into the shaping of our children? Taking a systems approach to transform school culture in addressing the well-being of the whole child, every child, Belonging... unfolds a powerful strategy to guide us through the process. This is so fundamental to our healthy survival as interdependent beings. A must-read, a restorative practice!

Christina Jones
Founder of Prowess DanceArts

Belonging and Inclusion in Identity Safe Schools: A Guide for Educational Leaders offers sound research, inspiration, and well-tested resources and strategies for education leaders committed to creating inclusive, equitable, and thriving schools.   It provides both the theory and the tools to strengthen inclusion and equity through professional development, coaching, partnership with parents and families, data and assessment, discipline, school governance, and more. It teaches how these approaches weave together as a system to support all students, educators, and families to their fullest potential.  The many brilliant scholars and practitioners spotlighted throughout inspire and show the way.   Written in accessible and engaging language, this book is a fantastic resource for new and experienced education leaders and teams.

Rebecca Vester
Manager for Language and Literacy, Alameda County Office of Education

As a former teacher in both secondary and university level education, I highly recommend Belonging and Inclusion in Identity Safe Schools: A Guide for Educational Leaders for all educators who want to fully actualize their teaching practices in terms of creating identity safe schools, so crucial to our students’ sense of belonging. In exploring and challenging issues and attitudes entrenched in our educational system, the authors throw a lifeline to catapult ourselves out of the mire of structural inequalities and classroom practices that keep our students from developing as fully educated and valued members of society. Coming on the heels of the pandemic, this book provides the analysis and tools necessary to usher into our schools a solid phase transition.

Alayne Cramer
ELL Instructor, Laney College

Becki Cohn-Vargas

Becki Cohn-Vargas, EdD, is the coauthor, with Dorothy Steele, of Identity Safe Classrooms Grades K–5: Places to Belong and Learn. In 2020, she coauthored Identity Safe Classrooms Grades 6–12: Pathways to Belonging and Learning. She designs curriculum, publishes articles, coaches schools, and produces films for Teaching Tolerance, Edutopia, Not In Our Town, and other organizations. She presents internationally at conferences and provides professional development in schools and districts. Dr. Cohn-Vargas began her 35-year career in early childhood education in Sonoma County, California. She lived abroad for five years where she did... More About Author

Alexandrea Creer Kahn

Alexandrea Creer Kahn, MAed, after earning her BA at UC Berkeley and MA in Education from Stanford University, started her career in education, working to support elementary school teachers and leaders to engage in the school improvement process. Over the course of her career focusing on educational equity, Alex has worked in several roles in K–12 and higher-ed including teacher, school coach, principal, and district leader, as well as lecturer for Stanford University. Recently, Alex coauthored the book Identity Safe Classrooms: Grades 6–12: Pathway to Belonging and Learning. Alex currently oversees the clinical practicum program for... More About Author

Amy Epstein

Amy Epstein, MSW, is the founding partner of Data for the People, working to transform data into valued and accessible information centered in the knowledge and priorities of those closest to a context, problem, or goal. She has worked as an administrator and consultant with many school districts, schools, foundations, and other nonprofit organizations to advance equity in education, particularly in the areas of evidence-based inquiry and dialogue, coordinated services/tiered support systems, data systems and processes, and assessment. Amy was a coauthor in 2020 of Identity Safe Classrooms: Grades 6–12: Pathway to Belonging and Learning.... More About Author

Kathe Ann Gogolewski

Kathe Gogolewski, MAed, taught science as well as first, third, and fourth grades in Bay Area elementary schools, serving culturally rich and racially diverse students from all backgrounds. During her tenure, she worked as both a master and mentor teacher, working with new teachers and new teacher candidates in both classroom management and curriculum. She provided teachers with a framework for creating nurturing classrooms that welcomed students of all identities and backgrounds. She taught at California State University in the teacher credential program and has presented at workshops and conferences across the United States. Since moving... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781071835838
$32.95