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The Current State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in K–12 Public Schools

Supporting DEI in K–12 education can’t simply be a project or an initiative: It takes a mindset and a focus on systemic transformation.

For years, K–12 districts have faced a difficult and delicate mandate: How can they support the needs of each student, despite myriad disparities and despite a climate where education — especially the issue of diversity, equity, and inclusion — is increasingly politicized?  

It’s a subject that K–12 leaders grappled with long before the pandemic and long before the events of 2020 forced conversations about racial inequality to the surface. Today, however, these discussions have become more prominent and more imperative than ever.   

In this year’s “State of DEI in K–12 Public Schools” report, you’ll learn: 

  • The impact of DEI on student belonging 
  • The relationship between DEI and student success 
  • Disparities in the perceptions of DEI among school stakeholders, including teachers, students, families, and others 
  • Approaches for assessing the state of DEI in your district 

A Unique Lens on DEI in K–12 Public Schools

Over the past several years, Hanover’s K–12 Research and Professional Services team has supported hundreds of district leaders as they navigate these challenges. We are constantly inspired by their efforts and their commitment to school transformation and continuous improvement — work that often directly translates to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).  

Throughout this work, one of the most critical lessons learned is that a commitment to DEI cannot simply be an initiative: It has to be a way of thinking about an entire system. 

The need for systemic equity that ensures every child has the greatest opportunity to develop to their full academic and social potential has evolved over the past several years to become a core focus in many school districts across the United States.

To uncover opportunity gaps, district leaders must ensure they are asking the right questions and leveraging the right tools. This can be particularly challenging when the research and literature don’t always align to provide consistent, proven best practices and recommendations. 

About this Report and the Research Behind It

In fall 2020, Hanover’s team identified a lack of consensus in the academic literature around tools and methodologies appropriate for identifying inequities in K–12 school systems. As a research team, we seized this opportunity to build a methodology for equity audits grounded in previous research.  

The methodology and tools described in this report provide a framework for holding systems accountable to ensure they’re meeting the needs of each individual child. This report also outlines findings from two of the tools our team designed to help district leaders measure the inclusiveness of their school environments and to reveal opportunity gaps that cause inequities. Ultimately, this paper is intended to help district leaders understand the current perception of school systems and to provide recommendations for improving policy and practice in public schools. 

Address system-wide inequities with this 2022 report on diversity, equity, and inclusion in K–12 public schools

Learn how districts around the nation are experiencing DEI. Get the report.

It is imperative to remember that educational diversity, equity, and inclusion are inherently connected to critical topics and current trends in education including: culture and climate, social-emotional learning, mental health, and teacher recruitment and retention.

Download the report to see how K–12 schools around the nation are experiencing and addressing the challenges of DEI.

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