Am I Good Enough? Do you See Me? Am I on the Inside or the Outside?

Reading Time: 6 minutes

This blog was originally posted on The Core Collaborative on Oct. 26, 2020 and also on the Educational Equity Resources Portal.

The murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor have brought national focus on the systemic violence perpetuated against Black people. The enormity of the need for change has long been called for by people of color. The degree to which the white world has seen the need is questionable. Now in this moment of national attention, those of us who are steeped in this work have hope that some changes will happen, that attention will stay focused, and we know it is a long shot.

Continue reading “Am I Good Enough? Do you See Me? Am I on the Inside or the Outside?”

Affirming Dignity in the Time of Elections

Reading Time: 3 minutes

In this fall of impossible challenges, schools are doing the best that they can to address issues that they have never had to address before. Principals and teachers are stretched to the max trying to teach in person and virtually, figure out systems to keep children and adults safe, and hold out until a vaccine. And yet there is one upcoming event that happens every four years that comes next week that many worry about–the election. Continue reading “Affirming Dignity in the Time of Elections”

Recognizing Holidays and Cultural Celebrations at School: Halloween

Reading Time: 6 minutesIn recent years, schools across the country have modified Halloween celebrations to better meet students needs — some have moved parades to after school, stopped the sharing of candy during school, replaced events with alternative celebrations, or cancelled Halloween celebrations. This blog provides considerations and key questions to support you to center race and ethnicity as you think about and plan for school-based Halloween celebrations and the use of costumes. Continue reading “Recognizing Holidays and Cultural Celebrations at School: Halloween”

Equity Considerations for Social and Emotional Learning

Reading Time: 3 minutes

by Mandi Bozarth and Isaiah McGee

During the past several years, Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) has grown as a topic of educational programming and planning. Evidence shows us that implementing SEL can result in improvements to classroom academic success and school culture and climate. As we return to class this fall, many districts and buildings are considering a new emphasis on SEL practices as early as the first weeks of school to support students who have experienced disruptions to their education due to the pandemic. With the growth of SEL programming and implementation, we are also aware of challenges some systems face when SEL is implemented without considering equity. If implemented in a color evasive way, without considering differences in the experiences of students of color or without taking into account the impacts of implicit racial bias, SEL can have negative impacts on marginalized student populations.

Continue reading “Equity Considerations for Social and Emotional Learning”

19 Essential Books to Understand Race and Equity in Schools

Reading Time: 3 minutesBy Isaiah McGee

Many educators have been asking what they can read to better understand race, racism, and its impact on schools and the classroom. I compiled a list of 19 essential books that can help educators not only better understand the elusive, pervasive, and persistent impact of race on schools, but also provide them with skills to challenge and mitigate its influence and provide marginalized students, especially Black students, the best learning environment and experience.
Continue reading “19 Essential Books to Understand Race and Equity in Schools”

In Solidarity

In Solidarity

Reading Time: < 1 minute

West Wind Education Policy is committed to disrupting historic and persistent inequities. We are deeply disturbed by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many others, as well as the ongoing violence toward the bodies and spirit of people of color.

We join the protests against the institutional, ideological, internalized, and interpersonal systems of oppression that have made this a centuries-long struggle here in the United States.

(For information about the Four I’s of Oppression, see and

Thank you, Abigail!

Thank you, Abigail!

Reading Time: 2 minutesAfter a few busy months, University of Iowa Graduate Student Abigail (Abi) Lippert’s time at West Wind has drawn to a close. Abigail worked on a multitude of projects during her semester of practicum at West Wind, and we’re excited to see where she goes next.

Originally from Mediapolis, Iowa, Abigail came to Iowa City to pursue her undergraduate degree. Her initial goal was to become a doctor, but she found herself drawn to psychology and social work as she explored how she could best impact the social injustices she saw around her. “Once I got into psychology, I started learning a lot about supporting students and individuals who have different abilities,” she said.  Continue reading “Thank you, Abigail!”

Our Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Our Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Reading Time: < 1 minuteThe COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way we work, think, and educate. 

Throughout this time, West Wind has been busy supporting our partners and clients to keep our work focused on equity and safety. Like many crises, this pandemic has further shown the great racial disparities in the U.S. with regard to living conditions, patterns of employment, work circumstances, underlying health conditions, and access to responsive health care. We will continue to prioritize safety and equity. We are honored to spend time talking with, supporting, and learning from our colleagues as we all navigate through the response to the pandemic.   

To read more about the issues we are working on around equity and responses to the pandemic, please visit our blog at the Educational Equity Resources Portal titled Racial Equity, COVID-19, and Our Schools.  

In the coming months, we will share several of our guidance documents free of charge; jump into our Educational Equity Resources Portal and filter.

Racial Equity, COVID-19, and Our Schools

Reading Time: 5 minutesMany thanks to all our educators and education leaders who are doing everything you can to help your students during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are pleased that equity is a primary consideration as K-12 systems across the country are pivoting to provide learning opportunities, food, and social connections to support students and their families during this crisis.

While many aspects of educational equity seem self-evident among the considerations that schools and school personnel are weighing, we have been asked many times,

How do we keep racial equity front of mind?

We will be offering a series of blog posts about equity considerations during this pandemic. What we offer here, in our first post on the subject, is what we consider to be the most important consideration when it comes to racial equity:

Do everything you can to avoid conflating race, poverty, and trauma.

Given the speed by which big decisions are being made in conditions of tremendous uncertainty, we ALL are going to be making assumptions about who is most vulnerable right now. This is inevitable. What research tells us about implicit bias is that our assumptions are informed by and they reinforce bias.

Those of us motivated to overcome bias in our everyday lives will want to regularly ask ourselves — whether reflecting on our own thinking, the decisions we are making, or the ways we are communicating — several questions:

  • “What assumptions am I making about my students of color?”

For example, consider that the upper middle class white student whose single parent is not handling the stress of the economic downturn may struggle to focus on school work, while the black student who has both parents working from home may be energized by new ideas they are encountering while following the curriculum their parents put together during the school closures.

  • “How do I know how my decisions will impact students of color?”

What evidence do I have that my students of color need something or can’t do something or will struggle with something? Who am I relying on for current information about my students? There is tremendous diversity among students of color and just because we think we know the family situation of one student does not mean we know it for all students. It is better to be modest and to recognize we have to make decisions with limited information.

  • “How can I ensure I am not reinforcing stereotypes and implicit biases about my students and their families in the ways I communicate about my decisions and actions?”

One of the most insidious problems with race in America is that we do not have to explicitly announce the race of students and their families when we are talking about helping marginalized community members for the message to trigger and reinforce implicit racial biases. It can be helpful to identify who the community LIKELY will assume a solution is targeted to and to be very careful in public communications that we do not reinforce these assumptions about who is at risk. Offer counterstories as much as possible. This helps us just as much as it helps our communities.

We absolutely must be prepared to support the students who are the most vulnerable and who will suffer during this pandemic. However, the national narratives about race and poverty in America feed assumptions that our vulnerable students are universally black or that our students in poverty are universally in harm’s way. These tendencies to lump students into categories will seep out in surprising ways among well-meaning educators and education leaders. While the correlation between poverty and race is too steep, it is not perfect. There are many people of color who are not poor; the conflation of the two is seriously problematic.

Similarly, many in the middle class in the US tend to think that students in poverty are universally facing trauma in their homes and communities. However, the original research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) did not indicate a difference in the prevalence of ACEs by family income. Thousands of students in poverty are highly motivated, work hard, and want to succeed in mainstream society. Thousands are in family units where a parent is home with them all of the time. Thousands have families keeping them intellectually stimulated during the school closures–often in more productive ways than working parents of wealthier students.

Absolutely, we need to think about systemic and personal challenges our students and their families will face during these unprecedented school closures. It helps to recognize, however, that we are very likely to fall into various “equity traps” in the assumptions we make regarding vulnerability.

Some things we might do to avoid these traps:

  • Talk openly about who we assume is likely to suffer and who might thrive in this time away from school. Ideally, have these conversations with a small team of colleagues and/or partners able to provide honest feedback to you and to others. Name race, poverty, and gender as we are talking about it seems a solution is targeted to. Do everything we can to problematize assumptions that inevitably will accompany our conversations and planning. Use that information to ensure we are solving real problems and that we are supporting EVERYONE who may face those problems, not just the ones we are conditioned to think about.
  • Be very careful in our public communications not to reinforce biased ideas about who is at risk. Actively provide counterstories when we are thinking and communicating about these topics. Seek out real examples of families of color who are leading the way and actively imagine others. (Research tells us that even just imagining counterstereotypes or counterstories can reduce the impact of implicit bias.) While scenario building requires us to imagine students who are suffering, we also must imagine students of color who are thriving. Keep reminding ourselves that we do not know what is happening for every student at home, and that we are here to support them all, no matter what.
  • Be prepared to ask and to be asked about the equity implications of the ideas we offer. Find a critical friend who can help catch us when we get caught in the cycle of deficit thinking, or when our actions or words perpetuate that cycle. This work is best done with people we already trust. Shared goals and norms also can pave the way for productive collaborative reflection on race.
  • Extend grace to one another and to yourself. You are doing the right work. If someone points out a potential concern with how we are articulating our thoughts, they do this because they assume positive intent and are taking responsibility for impact. (This is one of West Wind’s norms for engaging in racial equity work.) Thank them, pause to consider their perspectives, push back if we need (“silence breakers” can help with this), but work hard to not get bogged down in shame, guilt, or anger at our critical friends for bringing up something we feel is unflattering or incorrect.

Research on implicit bias tells us that it is important to vet our assumptions with others and to imagine counterstories to counteract the stories and images we have been bombarded with over the course of our lifetimes. This is vital to the process of inoculating our decision making against bias.

It is especially important during this pandemic.


Biernat, M., Manis, M., & Nelson, T.E. (1991). Stereotypes and standards of judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60. 4, 485–499.

Blair, I.V., Ma, J.e. & Lenton, A.P. (2001). Imagining Stereotypes Away: The moderation of implicit stereotypes through mental imagery. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 81, No. 5, p. 828-841.

Boser, U., Wilhelm, M., & Hanna, R. (October 2014). The power of the Pygmalion Effect: Teachers expectations strongly predict college completion. Washington, DC: Center for American Progress.

Devine, P.G., Forscher, P.S., Austin, A.J., & Cox, W.T. L. (2012). Long-term reduction in implicit race bias: A prejudice habit-breaking intervention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 48(6): 1267–1278.

DiAngelo, R. (N.D.). White Fragility Reader’s Guide. Penguin Random House: New York, NY. Accessed February 19, 2020, from

Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at The Ohio State University. (2015). Implicit Bias: State of the Science. Retrieved from

Lopez, Gerardo. (2001). The Value of Hard Work: Lessons on Parent Involvement from an (Im)migrant Household. Harvard Educational Review 71(3):417-437.

*This was originally posted on West Wind’s Educational Equity Resources Portal.

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., and Racial Justice Advocates Through the Years

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., and Racial Justice Advocates Through the Years

Reading Time: 3 minutesMLK quotation and nine pics of racial equity activists.

To honor Dr. King’s place in history and to acknowledge those who have worked and who continue to work toward racial justice, we are pleased to share these images of activists who inspire us. 

You will notice that some of these images are of leaders who clashed with Dr. King; others are of leaders who never met him. It is important to acknowledge the diversity of philosophies that have guided actions across the years toward the pursuit of racial justice, just as it is important to find ourselves within the legacy of struggle for civil and human rights. We have so much to learn!  Continue reading “Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., and Racial Justice Advocates Through the Years”

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