Equity Consulting Group-For US By US
Coming Into Existence
If one were to eavesdrop on an Equity Consulting Group (ECG) conference call, he or she would likely hear the term FUBU kicked around. Dr. Kisha Porcher, and Colleen Rodgers, the initiators of this organization, nicknamed the project FUBU for the reason that its urban 90s name implies – For US By US. It was a dream that manifested from Dr. Porcher’s experiences growing up in Cincinnati, and molded by her time at Spelman. This was over 10 years ago. Now, as we officially launch the organization, it is no longer a dream deferred. The “right people came together at the right time.” And we would like to thank President Trump for that!
At a faculty gathering in 2016 at the firm where we all met, many of our then colleagues struggled to process how the electoral race could have been decided in such a manner. The concern wasn’t necessarily that Trump had won, but rather that in spite of his rhetoric, he still won. Yet, the four founders of this group were not surprised. Yes, his language choice deeply disturbed us as it was a media approved affirmation of micro-aggressions we lived through on a repeated basis. However, our experiences in the field taught us that there were more people who expressed similar sentiments to Mr. Trump, than those who did not. Dangerously yet, many of these individuals choose to teach in settings that service children of color; many of them being individuals of color themselves!
On this November day, the faculty meeting quickly deteriorated as the consultants of color expressed frustration with the perceived lack of desire to address larger systemic issues of inequity. Most notably, the concern around not addressing the obscene number of deaths that affected Black communities at the hands of police brutality in the prior year was disconcerting, especially since any of those murdered, could have been a student in a school we served. Shaken by the responses, Dr. Porcher convened us with an idea – let’s start our own consulting company that focuses on responsive educational practices. This one idea positioned four uniquely talented women to bring the work into fruition.
Building the Team
Mrs. Colleen Rodgers, currently the National Director of STEM at Teach for America, came to this project full of passion for social and political consciousness work. As a middle school math teacher in Philadelphia, nearly 20 years ago, she capitalized on her prior career as a Chemical Engineer, to inspire students by teaching content deeply and through a local context. She has helped to open schools and brought her contagious sense of possibility to classrooms internationally. She brings to this work a wealth of experience in Design Thinking, content knowledge,strategies for leading learning and a fierce commitment to improving access and long-term outcomes for all students. Her ability to build strong trusting relationships with administrators and teachers alike, while holding them to high expectations, is just a part of the reason why she has managed to achieve significant improvement in math scores across diverse districts.
Ms. Jacobe Bell, National Board Certified Teacher, is a curriculum aficionado. She designed the entire middle school writing curriculum for a notable New York City charter network. Her direct, yet respectful, approach to instructional leadership has led to all of her schools experiencing at least a 10% jump in their state exam scores. This is due not to teaching towards the test, but rather addressing many of the underlying mindset issues that are so pervasive in educational spaces. She found that too many educators held deficit-oriented beliefs about their students.
After numerous conversations, it became apparent that mindset was at the heart of our work. We wanted our coaching process to address the lingering issues around mindset and pedagogy. Anecdotal experience, which later became a published article, indicated that moving pedagogy meant moving mindsets with respect to perceptions of students.
Almost as if by divine intervention, Dr. Reshma Ramkellawan was finishing her doctoral studies on pedagogy and its relationship to mindset. She holds over 12 years of experience, and served as a team leader, assistant principal and most importantly, English educator. What was the focus of her dissertation? Teachers’ pedagogical practices are an evolution of how they were raised, and their perceptions of “good” pedagogy. These factors influenced the overall mindset held in respect to their students.
What Comes Next?
We are thrilled to have found each other, not only for the affinity we hold as educators of color, but rather for the simple notion that we believe it extremely possible to effect lasting change. The process for getting here has not been easy. But throughout our journey, we have collaborated, researched, and engaged in difficult conversations around race and inequity. We have presented our work at six conferences, including the World Education Research Association (WERA) National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and are slated to present at the American Education Research Association (AERA) in 2018. We believe in doing the work and will do so by any means necessary.