K-12 Standards Integrates Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI)
May 19 2023

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) has been in the spotlight in recent years, especially in the workplace and on college campuses. DEI is now increasingly being integrated into K-12 curriculum to create inclusive learning environments for all students. But what exactly is DEI, and how does it relate to US education standards?

What is DEI?

Diversity, equity and inclusion are interconnected terms that are used together to promote programs to represent and allow participation from different groups of people.

Diversity acknowledges the many ways that people differ- including race, ethnicity, color, sex, gender, gender identity, sexual identity, socio-economic status, language, culture, national origin, religion/spirituality, age, (dis)ability, military/veteran status, political perspective, and more.

Equity ensures fair and just treatment to all people. Equity differs slightly from equality, in that whereas equality gives everyone equal access to opportunities, equity takes into consideration each individual’s unique circumstances and adjusts accordingly, so everyone has opportunities proportionate to their needs.

Inclusion is the act of welcoming, supporting, respecting and valuing all of the diverse individuals and groups.

How is DEI Being Implemented in Schools?

DEI is being implemented into curricula and teaching pedagogy, to create more equitable and inclusive learning environments for all children; however, the approach can differ, depending on the state.  Some states have implemented tools to help school districts identify and eliminate bias in instructional materials. Others are implementing programs for educators to prepare them to support their students with culturally responsive learning. Additionally, some states are increasing DEI concepts in their state standards.

  • The Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction has developed a model tool geared toward the review of instructional material for biased content. This tool helps schools work toward equitable and culturally responsive education.
  • The CC Network, in support of the Michigan Department of Education, has created a report to aid in the identification of resources and tools that can be used by instructional teams to evaluate and assess bias in curricular materials.
  • The New York State Department of Education has created a culturally responsive-sustaining (CR-S) education framework for educators. This framework helps educators create student-centered learning environments that affirm racial, linguistic and cultural identities; prepare students for rigor and independent learning; develop students’ abilities to connect across lines of difference; elevate historically marginalized voices; and empower students as agents of social change.
  • The Washington State Educator Standards Board has adopted a new version (2021) of cultural competency, diversity, equity, and inclusion (CCDEI) standards. The purpose of these standards is to prepare educators to support their students with demonstrated cultural responsiveness, diversity, equity and inclusion.
  • The New Mexico Public Education Department has created a handbook to provide guidance on culturally and linguistically responsiveness.
  • The Illinois State Board of Education 2020-2023 strategic plan addresses DEI by aiming to adopt culturally responsive teaching and leading standards for educator preparation programs; embed the history and accomplishments of historically underrepresented groups (e.g., Latino/a, African-American, LGBTQ) in the Illinois Social Science Learning Standards; and establish a school/district leadership department that will support the recruitment of a diverse leadership pipeline with a focus on race and culturally responsive leadership.

Additionally, Learning for Justice a has put together a set of standards to be used as a road map for K-12 anti-bias education. The standards are divided into four domains- identity, diversity, justice and action. These standards establish learning outcomes and anti-bias scenarios, organized by grade bands, and can be used by educators to guide curriculum development.

What About State Standards?

US education standards vary by state, and are updated periodically, and in accordance with the individual state’s timeline for standard updates. We currently see DEI concepts mostly incorporated into Social and Emotional Learning standards, Social Studies standards, and occasionally in Heath and PE standards. Other subjects, such as Science and Technology Education, may currently include standards relating to scientific contributions from diverse people or cultures, or equality of technology access for diverse users. As individual states continue to focus on integrating diversity, equity and inclusion into curriculum and teaching methodologies, we should expect to see an increase in DEI concepts in state standards across disciplines as they are updated. Because of the update timelines, standards tend to lag behind the trends in education.

Keeping Your Standards Current

DEI standards are currently in flux and we expect to continue to see changes, additions and modification as state begin incorporating more DEI standards into their curriculum. EdGate offers many different options for ensuring your content stays aligned to the most recent standard changes. Contact the experts at EdGate to find out how we can help.