Our mission is equity

November 8, 2017

USC Rossier unveils a new mission focused on equity, research and learning in urban settings

The USC Rossier School of Education unveiled a new mission statement on Wednesday, the product of a yearlong conversation about improving the school.

While the previous mission, first adopted last decade, focused on learning in urban education, the new mission places the emphasis on equity:

The mission of the USC Rossier School of Education is to prepare leaders to achieve educational equity through practice, research and policy. We work to improve learning opportunities and outcomes in urban settings and to address disparities that affect historically marginalized groups. We teach our students to value and respect the cultural context of the communities in which they work and to interrogate the systems of power that shape policies and practices. Through innovative thinking and research, we strive to solve the most intractable educational problems.

“Advancing educational equity is central to everything we do,” said USC Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher. “From ongoing revisions to our degree programs to the focus of our research to preparing students for roles as teachers, counselors, advisors and administrators.”

Trusting the process

The first step toward a new mission began exactly one year ago, on Nov. 7, 2016, when four external reviewers submitted their report as part of the Provost Office’s Academic Program Review of USC Rossier’s doctoral programs. In their recommendations, they called for USC Rossier to clarify the meaning the words “urban education” as used in its mission: “The mission of the USC Rossier School of Education is to improve learning in urban education locally, nationally and globally.”

Only a few weeks later, the school’s own Diversity Task Force prioritized the same goal in its recommendations to the dean on improving equity, diversity, opportunity and access (EDOA) at USC Rossier. And in February 2017, a climate assessment report solicited from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for the Study of Race & Equity in Education linked the exploration of “urban education” to the improvement of the school climate at USC Rossier.

In winter 2017, a dean-appointed committee began a lengthy process to explore the meaning of urban education. Using surveys of faculty, staff and students, the committee gathered input on the mission’s relevance, and on the underlying tenets of urban education.

The committee also looked to the writing of scholars who had grappled with such definitions of urban education as a way to form a basis for discussion.

Following a spring retreat of faculty, staff and students and subsequent feedback, attention shifted from the meaning of “urban education” to the adoption of a new mission focusing on equity. Attendees had a clear desire to continue including an emphasis on improving learning in urban settings as well as on research, policy and practice.

“The Academic Program Review process helped us identify what was most important to us as a school, and the subsequent efforts of our faculty, staff and students answered this call to action by drafting this essential new mission statement,” Gallagher said.

As the final piece of the committee’s strategy, the school also solicited input from faculty, students and staff about how to meet the mission. Students cited the need for more courses that explicitly focus on policy, as well as more courses on diversity, equity and education history, as well as calling for more opportunities to engage in participatory action research, among other items.

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