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Equity Toolkit

Welcome to CDE's Equity Toolkit - A group of students smiling and standing against their lockers. 


Read the full introduction letter from Dr. Rhonda Haniford

Dear Educators, 

Imagine a school where ALL the children are loved and challenged, where the educators are empowered and where families and communities are seen as critical partners. Each of us is uniquely positioned to create a learning environment that honors the talents and gifts of each student so that they are prepared to thrive in their careers, in their homes and in their greater communities. This toolkit has been designed to give school leaders the tools and resources needed to capitalize on those unique strengths that foster supportive and effective relationships wherein the community works together to mitigate barriers to success. We designed this toolkit to support you and your community as you further build a learning environment where every student and every educator is supported to find success. READ MORE

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How to Use This Toolkit 

This toolkit is designed to provide user-friendly information and resources to support school and district leaders in centering equity in their work to support positive outcomes for the students they serve. We are all in different phases of our equity journey, and that’s OK. You are already off to a great start because you are here, you are reading, and you are open. We hope this toolkit supports you on your quest to create welcoming environments where all students and families feel a sense of belonging and all students are supported to achieve success. This toolkit is organized into the five sections listed below.

Understanding Self Button

Understanding Self

Understanding Self is a key component to understanding the root causes of a range of inequities at the school and district levels – inequities that prevent members of the school community from feeling safe, like they belong or have value. Each of us are made up of a variety of nuanced perspectives, and as leaders, it is important that we reflect on who we are. 

Understanding Others Button

Understanding Others

As leaders, once we have interrogated and are aware of our own biases, thoughts and actions (see Understanding Self section), it is important that we understand and examine the current and historical experiences of others. Our lived experiences shape the way we see others and consequently requires continued reflection. Understanding others helps to build trust and connection across differences. It also allows us to learn more about people’s experiences beyond the surface level and helps us foster true understanding. 

Understanding Context Button

Understanding Context

The Understanding Context section includes voices from the field through examples, illuminating differences between students, laws/policies that impact students and how these aspects impact learning and self-development. This section also includes naming our current reality, school-based policy best practices, different datasets to review with an equity lens, gathering data from community, family, staff and students, examples of survey questions and tips to increase feedback participation. As leaders, we are uniquely positioned to foster a sense of belonging for students and families and understanding the context within which we work is imperative toward that end.  

Implementation Button


The Implementation section is where the journeys, reflections and actions described in the Understanding Self, Understanding Others and Understanding Context sections come together to inform a concrete, student-focused and equity-informed action plan. This section, in particular, focuses on how the toolkit can strengthen the school and district planning processes, such as the Unified Improvement Plan (UIP) process.

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The Evaluation section provides guiding questions that can help evaluate how well and how equitably any actions taken by the school or district, including throughout the course of creating and implementing the UIP, worked. The guiding questions in this section draw from key considerations laid out across all sections of the toolkit. The evaluation process will likely prompt you to revisit different sections of the toolkit depending on your reflections and responses. 

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Ways to Use This Toolkit

There are multiple ways to use this toolkit, with a few outlined below. Ultimately, we hope that you leverage the information in the ways that best support your endeavors to support students’ success.

Starting with Self 

Because effective leaders are reflective and self-aware, we strongly encourage you to begin with the Understanding Self section. Mitigating your own biases and building your own reflective practice is the foundation of equity work and will make you a stronger leader of others in this work.

Going Deeper

Equity is a broad topic that can and should be incorporated into all aspects of leadership. In the same regard, organizing all that information can be overwhelming, especially for leaders who are simultaneously addressing multiple priorities. This toolkit provides an outline of initial resources to support you in this work. However, if you feel you are further along in your equity journey or who wish to further explore a particular topic, this toolkit provides a Resource Appendix and links to other resources to provide more in-depth content and study.

Targeted Support

As leaders, we often are pulled to address multiple priorities in an urgent manner. This toolkit allows you to begin with the section or topic that is more important for you. As you explore the content and resources aligned to your needs, the toolkit will provide links to additional aligned information that can further supplement and support the area you are exploring.

Following the Data

If you are unsure where to start in the toolkit, the self-assessment can help identify the best place to start. Reflect on each statement, and respond with Always, Frequently, Occasionally, Rarely or Never. The statements are organized by section, and you might consider beginning with the section where you receive more Never or Rarely comments. 

As a How To Manual: From Start to Finish

The toolkit can also be used as a how to manual, by navigating through each section sequentially. By exploring the sections as a learning series, each section can be used to build the foundation for diving into the work outlined in the five  sections.

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Self Assessment

A critical first step toward change is knowing oneself. This assessment is designed to help you identify which section to explore first.

Likert Scale: Always (5), Frequently (4), Sometimes (3), Rarely (2), and Never (1)

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Cultural Proficiency Framework

Developed by the Center for Culturally Proficient Educational Practice

The Cultural Proficiency Framework helps leaders excel in their professional work using culturally proficient tools. Four tools of Cultural Proficiency combine to provide a framework for analyzing your values and behaviors, as well as your school’s or agency’s policies and practices. This toolkit uses this framework as a starting point regarding culture and further applies the mindsets, concepts and tools to include additional factors of difference such as gender, language, ability, sexual orientation and socioeconomic status. Tools included in this framework are described below with links to more in-depth resources to support administrators and other educators to increase access and opportunity for all members of the educational community. 


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The 4 Tools of Cultural Proficiency 

Essential elements of Cultural Proficiency serve as standards for developing culturally healthy values, behaviors, and policies/practices. 

  • Assessing Cultural Knowledge
  • Valuing Diversity
  • Managing the Dynamics of Difference

  • Adapting to Diversity
  • Institutionalizing Cultural Knowledge

Overcoming Barriers to Cultural Proficiency provides persons and their organizations with tools to overcoming resistance to change.

  • Resistance to Change 
  • Systemic Difference in Access

  • Unawareness of need to adapt
  • A sense of entitlement

Guiding Principles of Cultural Proficiency serve as an introduction for a person or organization to identify their core values as they relate to issues of diversity. The guiding principles counteract the Barriers and demonstrate how the diversity of students informs professional practice by responding to student learning needs. 

  • Culture is a predominant force in society. 
  • People are served in varying degrees by the dominant culture. 
  • People have individual and group identities. 
  • Diversity within cultures is vast and significant. 
  • Each cultural group has unique cultural needs. 
  • The best of both worlds enhances the capacity of all. 

  • The family, as defined by each culture, is the primary system of support in the education of children. 
  • School systems must recognize that marginalized populations have to be at least bicultural and that this status creates a distinct set of issues to which the system must be equipped to respond. 
  • Inherent in cross-cultural interactions are dynamics that must be acknowledged, adjusted to and accepted.

The Continuum provides language to describe unhealthy and healthy values and behaviors of persons and policies and practices of organizations. The continuum can also help you assess your current state and project your desired state.

  • This describes unhealthy practices moving toward healthy practices.
  • The healthy practices are informed by the guiding principles and are developmental in nature.
  • The Continuum references both personal and organizational practices.

The Conceptual Framework is a graphic organizer that summarizes how the above tools relate to one another and how they serve as a resource for productive dialogue around individual and organizational needs. 

Based on Cultural Proficiency, A Manual for School Leaders, 4th Ed. Lindsey, Robins, Terrell, and Lindsey, 2019.


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Going Deeper

Additional resources related to the Cultural Proficiency Framework:

Understanding Self

A-Z Glossary

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This toolkit was prepared in partnership with the Western Educational Equity Assistance Center (WEEAC) at WestEd, which is authorized under Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Equity Assistance Centers provide technical assistance and training to school districts, tribal and state education agencies to promote equitable education resources and opportunities regardless of race, sex, national origin or religion. The WEEAC at WestEd partners with Pacific Resources for Education and Learning, and Attendance Works to assist Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaiʻi, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. 
The contents of this toolkit were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government. 

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