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ASU receives federal grant for Equity Assistance Center

October 30, 2008

The Mary Lou Fulton College of Education has received a federal grant to develop a regional Equity Assistance Center to promote equitable education opportunities for all children and assistance in the areas of civil rights, equity and access, and school reform.

Arizona State University Professors Elizabeth Kozleski and Alfredo Artiles are co-principal investigators of a three-year project supported by $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education Office. The grant was awarded through the Department’s initiatives to support Elementary and Secondary Education under Title IV of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The funding is designated to support civil rights training and advisory services for schools and communities to tackle equity and access issues in public education.

There are 10 equity assistance centers in the nation that are funded to ensure that all children, regardless of race, gender or national origin, have equal access to quality education and the opportunity to develop high academic standards in reading, math and other core subject areas. Region IX in the Southwest includes Arizona, California and Nevada.

“The equity assistance centers began in the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education. They have a grand tradition of working on issues of race, class and culture. We are thrilled to be able to do this work,” said Kozleski, an expert in systems change. “The Equity Alliance at ASU will join our other projects, including the National Institute for Urban School Improvement, the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems and Leadscape, the national center that supports principal leadership.”

Key equity issues addressed by equity assistance centers include disparities in student achievement and outcomes based on race, sex, or national origin; limited expectations for minority and female students; increasing violence and racial and sexual harassment in schools; renewed physical segregation among and within school buildings; ability grouping or tracking that isolates students based on race, sex, or national origin; persistence of stereotyping and bias; cultural bias in instructional methods and assessment tools; inadequate bilingual/ELL programs and services and recruitment/retention of highly qualified teachers.

Kozleski and Artiles have spent their careers working to improve inclusive practices in urban school districts as well as to improve culturally responsive practices and reduce the disproportionate representation of minority students in special education. Their goal has been to make education equitable for all students by understanding how to provide proactive, rather than reactive, educational opportunities for culturally and linguistically diverse students, including those with disabilities.  

The Equity Alliance at ASU’s effort to reduce disparities in academic achievement will include providing on-demand professional development; the use of scientifically-based, culturally responsive curricula and instructional practices; and networks of school systems engaged in high-quality work focused on equity work. The goal is to build a local coalition between higher education, preK-12 systems, communities, and families to focus on systemic solutions to civil rights issues and serve as a clearinghouse of expert knowledge for practitioners in the field.

The center will provide technical assistance and training at the request of school boards and other responsible governmental agencies on the preparation, adoption and implementation of plans for the desegregation of public schools in Arizona, California and Nevada, including desegregation based on race, sex and national origin and the development of effective methods of coping with special educational problems occasioned by desegregation.

NIUSI/NCCRESt/LeadScape Project Coordinator Elaine Mulligan said, “I think it will really increase our visibility, and we’ll be seen as a leading resource for providing help to schools with issues regarding access to quality education. This fits right in with ASU’s philosophy of being a New American University and being at the forefront as a positive force in our mission for fairness in education and progress.”