Skip To Main Content

Building a More Inclusive Tomorrow: DEI in Education Today

Building a More Inclusive Tomorrow: DEI in Education Today
By Steve Albert

Schools around the country are engaged in efforts to improve diversity, equity and inclusion. These efforts take many forms and seek to meet a variety of goals.

  • Diversity refers to differences between people, such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, language, culture, national origin, age, (dis)ability, etc. Diversity in schools mirrors the diversity found in society and helps students prepare to work effectively in real world settings. There is a great deal of research that shows that diverse teams in the workplace foster increased engagement and greater success. PJA has always been inclusive and has welcomed all students, regardless of whether or not they identify as Jewish, since its founding in 1961.
  • Equity means ensuring that everyone has access to the tools and support necessary for success. In schools, this means implementing policies and practices that enable all students to thrive. Students may require support and differentiated instruction in order to address neurodiversity – the differences in how children learn – or structural inequality that may be historic or current. PJA provides a wide range of support services to students. Moreover, PJA is fiercely proud of its institutional identity as a Jewish school. Our school exists as a place to foster Jewish continuity, strengthen Jewish identity, celebrate Jewish life, and offer a safe and secure community space to a group that continues to experience antisemitism in various ways.
  • Inclusion refers to a culture in which everyone feels respected and has the opportunity to participate fully. It’s related to, but different from, belonging, in that inclusion is an action taken by a school and belonging is a feeling that is experienced by members of the school community. At PJA, we are committed to ensuring that each individual in our diverse kehillah (community) feels a profound sense of belonging. Like most schools, PJA has a Diversity Statement that articulates our commitment to this, and related, goals.

A school’s DEI commitments are evident in its policies and practices as they pertain to many facets of the school’s operations, such as recruitment, retention, admission, and enrollment. It is also evident in curriculum because we know that bias is a learned trait.

Like many schools, PJA embraces anti-bias curriculum. The definition of anti-bias education, from the Anti-Defamation League is: “an approach to teaching and learning designed to increase understanding of differences and their value to a respectful and civil society and to actively challenge bias, stereotyping and all forms of discrimination in schools and communities. It incorporates inclusive curriculum that reflects diverse experiences and perspectives, instructional methods that advance all students’ learning, and strategies to create and sustain safe, inclusive and respectful learning communities.”

Diversity, equity and inclusion are elements of a school that touch all programs, departments, and members of the school community. Ultimately, the goal of DEI is to ensure that each member of the school community can reach their potential in an environment characterized by respect, support, and belonging. At PJA, we have a strong commitment to this work and recognize that it is on-going and requires persistence, courage, and collaboration.