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Implementation of Equity Policies
December 2019


What does the research say about the implementation of equity policies by school administrators?

Ask A REL Response

Thank you for your request to our Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Reference Desk. Ask A REL is a collaborative reference desk service provided by the 10 RELs that, by design, functions much in the same way as a technical reference library. Ask A REL provides references, referrals, and brief responses in the form of citations in response to questions about available education research.

Following an established REL Northwest research protocol, we conducted a search for evidence- based research. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, Google Scholar, and general Internet search engines. For more details, please see the methods section at the end of this document.

The research team has not evaluated the quality of the references and resources provided in this response; we offer them only for your reference. The search included the most commonly used research databases and search engines to produce the references presented here. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The research references are not necessarily comprehensive and other relevant research references may exist. In addition to evidence-based, peer-reviewed research references, we have also included other resources that you may find useful. We provide only publicly available resources, unless there is a lack of such resources or an article is considered seminal in the topic area.


Allensworth, E. M., Farrington, C. A., Gordon, M. F., Johnson, D. W., Klein, K., McDaniel, B., & Nagaoka, J. (2018). Supporting social, emotional, & academic development: Research implications for educators. Research synthesis. University of Chicago Consortium on School Research.

From the Abstract:
"This research synthesis is designed to help teachers and principals support equitable outcomes for all students. It suggests ways teachers, administrators, and school support personnel can use insights from research to create pre-K-12 schools and classrooms that advance educational equity. The synthesis brings together the UChicago Consortium's ground-breaking research on the influence of school climate on student achievement, the importance of mindsets and developmental experiences, as well as other leading education research. It draws attention to the critical role of engagement and mindsets in student success; how teachers and administrators can create strong school climates that support students and engage families as partners; and how responsive classrooms can enable all students to have strong academic engagement."

Galloway, M. K., Ishimaru, A. M., & Larson, R. (2015). When aspirations exceed actions: Educational leaders' descriptions of educational equity. Journal of School Leadership, 25(5), 838–875. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Research has begun to articulate actions of social justice leaders, but as a field we still know little about how a broad range of leaders view and enact equitable practice. In this study, we use a set of "leadership for equity" rubrics to examine how 114 school and district leaders rated and provided evidence of equitable or inequitable practices related to visionary leadership and instructional improvement (two core responsibilities of leadership as identified by the Interstate School Leaders Licensure Consortium's standards). The rubrics define equitable leadership along a continuum from unsatisfactory to exemplary, with a rating of proficient requiring evidence of action and change in policies and practices designed to produce equitable outcomes. Although leaders tended to rate themselves as proficient or above on the rubrics, their ratings were more favorable than what their supporting evidence warranted. We use this misalignment between participants' espoused and enacted behaviors to (a) discuss the need to better define key concepts in social justice leadership theory and practice and (b) highlight how leadership development and professional growth tools can counter rather than maintain status quo leadership practice."

Park, V., Daly, A. J., & Guerra, A. W. (2012). Strategic framing: How leaders craft the meaning of data use for equity and learning. Educational Policy, 27(4), 645–675. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Although there is an emerging body of research that examines data-driven decision making (DDDM) in schools, little attention has been paid to how local leaders strategically frame sensemaking around data use. This exploratory case examines how district and school leaders consciously framed the implementation of DDDM in one urban high school. Leaders strategically constructed diagnostic, motivating, and prognostic frames to promote a culture of using data for continuous improvement. Our findings demonstrate that leaders developed (a) diagnostic frames centered on the need to confront student achievement and opportunity gaps; (b) motivating frames concentrated on school improvement as shared collective responsibility; and (c) prognostic frames focused on making incremental change to sustain reform efforts and the creation of common goals to monitor progress. The findings suggest that framing is an important leadership tactic that needs careful consideration when reforms are introduced and implemented."

Shewchuk, S. J., & Cooper, A. (2018). Exploring equity in Ontario. Canadian Journal of Education/Revue canadienne de l'éducation, 41(4), 917–953. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Canada—and Ontario, in particular—is proud to be characterized as one of the most equitable education systems in the world. However, diversity poses unique challenges for Canadian education systems. This study presents findings from an environmental scan of equity policies across the 72 school boards in Ontario, which yielded 785 equity policies for analysis. Data extraction focused on five dimensions of knowledge mobilization: structures, brokering, co-production, dissemination, and exchange. Findings show that many topics remain under-represented in school board policy coverage, including religious accommodation, antiracism and ethno-cultural discrimination, anti-discrimination procedures for LGBTQ2+ students, gender identity, and socio-economic status."

Other Resources

Curry-Stevens, A., Lopezrevoredo, A. & Peters, D. (2013). Policies to eliminate racial disparities in education: A literature review. Portland, OR: Center to Advance Racial Equity, Portland State University. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"In response to an increasing need to understand the reach of the literature and the research undertaken on initiatives to eliminate racial disparities, a literature review was initiated in 2012 for the Eliminating Racial Disparities Collaborative within the All Hands Raised initiative to improve academic outcomes for students in Multnomah County. This was an expansive undertaking – and at the end, we have drawn upon about 160 different articles, some of which were meta-analyses of an array of publications in a particular field."

Davidson, Y. (2009). Equity in education: Policy and implementation–examining Ontario's anti-racism education guidelines and their application in the Peel District school board. The Journal of Public Policy, Administration, and Law, 1(1), 1–14. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"Changing demographics have challenged policy practitioners to implement diverse services and programs to meet the needs of urban populations. This is especially true in the area of equity in education in the Ontario public school system with regard to race and ethnicity. When reflecting on statistics that show that minority students, particularly those of African descent, are falling between the cracks, one wonders what policies and/or initiatives the Ontario Ministry of Education has put forth to positively affect years of negative trends. This article examines two areas of one such policy document, Antiracism and Ethnocultural Equity in School Boards: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation, and its effectiveness in implementing anti-racist and ethnoculturally equitable education in Ontario schools: the discretionary rather than mandated nature of the policy and the resources allotted for implementation."

Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2012). Equity and quality in education: Supporting disadvantaged students and schools. Paris, France: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Retrieved from

From the Abstract:
"This comparative report gives evidence on the policy levers that can help overcome school failure and reduce inequities in OECD education systems. It focuses on the reasons why investing in overcoming school failure -early and up to upper secondary- pays off (Chapter 1), on alternatives to specific system level policies that are currently hindering equity (Chapter 2), and on the actions to be taken at school level, in particular in low performing disadvantaged schools (Chapter 3)."

Potochnik, T., & Romans, A. N. (2015). Collaborating for equity: A scan of the Los Angeles educational ecosystem. Providence, RI: Annenberg Institute for School Reform, Brown University.

From the Abstract:
"Los Angeles has an educational ecosystem that is rich with partners committed to providing equitable access to learning opportunities for students. Throughout the 2014-2015 school year, the "Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University" (AISR) spent time meeting with a range of partners, including the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), and consistently heard a need and desire to work and learn across three major approaches that have taken root in several of the district's schools and neighborhoods: community schools, Linked Learning, and Promise Neighborhoods. The goals of this scan were to: (1) advance discussions about the commonalities in vision and goals across these three approaches; (2) highlight the systems, practices, and structures that are in place to support these approaches at the district and community levels; and (3) identify where there are gaps or needs for further support system-wide. This work was designed to complement the national "Time for Equity" project, which includes case studies of teacher knowledge, ownership, and leadership of the three approaches in Los Angeles schools. The authors hope that this scan has succeeded in surfacing shared lessons and priorities that will inform leaders of partner organizations and LAUSD how to better align, support, and expand these approaches systemically and maximize their impact across LAUSD. The authors also hope it will provide funders with valuable information about how they can best continue to support equitable educational opportunities in Los Angeles."


Keywords and Search Strings: The following keywords, subject headings, and search strings were used to search reference databases and other sources: Equity, Implementation, (School administrators OR School leaders)

Databases and Resources: We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and EBSCO databases (Academic Search Premier, Education Research Complete, and Professional Development Collection).

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

Date of publications: This search and review included references and resources published in the last 10 years.

Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority was given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, as well as academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, and Google Scholar.

Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references:

  • Study types: randomized control trials, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, and policy briefs, generally in this order
  • Target population and samples: representativeness of the target population, sample size, and whether participants volunteered or were randomly selected
  • Study duration
  • Limitations and generalizability of the findings and conclusions

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by stakeholders in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington, which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest. It was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0009 by REL Northwest, administered by Education Northwest. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.