As an educational researcher focused on race, a former teacher and a lover of education, I am convinced of one thing: to raise educational achievement across all racial and socioeconomic groups in Alachua County, our whole community must invest and participate in the effort to strengthen public education.

We must move beyond caring and concerned community member to become stakeholders and advocates. This kind of meaningful participation is what each and every child deserves from the adults who impact their educational fate.

The report on racial inequality sponsored by the Friendship Seven suggests that providing “a high-quality educational experience” will make a significant difference in Gainesville. I agree. What will that take? Strategic, system-wide steps toward excellence and equity.

There are districts around the nation that are increasing black achievement, closing academic gaps and ensuring the well-being of marginalized populations. As the Gainesville For All education team studied these efforts, themes emerged: listen to those most impacted, partner with them, demand high standards, create diversity and maintain equitable policies.

With these lessons in mind, we offer our recommendations.

Create a public campaign and Equity and Excellence initiative: Make the agenda for equity and excellence for all students a public priority that is collaborative, transparent and accessible. Equity is ensuring that all students have what they need to succeed. Excellence is ensuring that each student does succeed. Together, the two create a strong, diverse educational system for our entire community.

We believe this begins with Alachua County Public Schools issuing a public statement on a three- to five-year Equity and Excellence initiative, and appointing a steering committee of diverse constituents who act as leaders, ambassadors, liaisons and guides.

Committee membership should prioritize marginalized students and parents and include teachers, administrators, business leaders, the higher education community, after-school leaders and GNV4ALL membership. Working in conjunction with the School Board and the equity office, the committee should oversee the equity plan, process and proposals, and recommend actions to the board for the three- to five-year duration.

During the spring/summer of 2018, the committee should generate a report that is both qualitative and quantitative with respect to all measures of achievement, curriculum, teacher recruitment, retention and professional development, school financing, and school, magnet and course segregation/enrollment by racial and socioeconomic demographics.

Reduce school segregation in buildings, courses and programs: Address racial and socioeconomic segregation through culturally relevant student/family recruitment, widening policies related to admission, scaffolding and support for diverse students in courses/programs, and efforts to ensure the successful completion of marginalized students in courses/programs.

Aggressively advocate for rezoning of schools and the desegregation of courses — including honors, gifted and Advanced Placement classes and low-performing coursework such as remedial and low-level classes, high-performing magnet and professional programs. Strengthen general education coursework so that it is rigorous.

Invest in expert-led professional development designed for 21st century schooling: Enact expert-led, evidence-based, long-term culturally relevant professional development efforts for School Board members, administrators, instructional coaches, teachers and support professionals.

Sufficient long-term professional development includes: mastery of culturally responsive pedagogy for African American students and diverse learners; parent partnership, engagement and collaboration strategies; implicit bias awareness, reduction and redress; knowledge of African American history with curriculum and grade-level standard infusion; student engagement and classroom management, teacher/administrator professional learning communities, school-based teacher leadership, coaching and other mechanisms that enable teachers and administrators to perform as competent and confident research-based professionals.

Educate the public: Engage and educate the wider community, especially marginalized parents, on educational assessment tests and measures, standards and school curriculum, and levels of mastery and achievement so we understand what it takes to be excellent. Provide the public, principals, teachers, parents and students with relevant information on district, school and student academic performance and mastery at regular, time-sensitive intervals.

Create a dashboard to provide stakeholders with updates on our status and progress. Use formative, portfolio and summative assessments for every student yearly and include this information in each parent conference. Use district staff to generate data swiftly and routinely for each school community.

Create sustainable funding: Aggressively seek and designate funding and finance to support the initiative using partnerships, innovation, and research. Collaborate with stakeholders to create financially sustainable mechanisms over the duration of the effort. Collaboratively participate in the national discussion related to equity and achievement.

As citizens, we each have power to make a difference, strengthen our community and advocate for ourselves and others. Let’s envision what is possible together and work to bring it about.

Diedre Faith Houchen is chair of the GNV4ALL education team.