Jan 29, 2024

Spotlight on Designing for Equity: A Nationwide Education Scan (Part 1)

Hadley Moore
young students learning and engaging

Clarissa McKithen is a member of NCC’s D4E Team. She also contributes intellectual leadership to the design and implementation of equity-focused trainings; manages collaborative development of products for dissemination; and provides expertise in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion and qualitative research methods.


Last fall, the National Comprehensive Center released Designing for Equity: A Nationwide Education Policy Scan. I sat with Clarissa McKithen, a member of the Designing for Equity (D4E) Team at the National Comprehensive Center (NCC), to discuss the scan and the process to develop it.

Can you tell me a little about what the education policy scan is and why the NCC did it?

Clarissa: An ongoing conversation within our team, the D4E team, is about how policy serves as a lever to advance educational equity, or to ensure access to opportunities that positively impact student outcomes. With that, our team wanted to “take stock” of state level policies that potentially impact equitable access to opportunities and outcomes. Our overarching question was, “What is the status of state level policies that impact educational equity. Or, “What kinds of policies exist that have an “equity undertone?” if you will, intentionally or not.

We really wanted to develop something that would prompt conversation; the reflection piece was the real focus. So, we wanted to develop something that would allow states and other interested parties, like technical assistance providers, to get a general sense of where states stood and then take that information to have further, deeper conversations about the role of policy in advancing equity, and how states can continue to support students from a policy standpoint.

What approach did the NCC take to conduct the Nationwide Education Policy Scan?

Clarissa: We partnered with Education Commission of the States (ECS) to conduct the
education policy scan. ECS has conducted a number of 50-state comparisons, so they
have a lot of experience doing this type of landscape scan. And then, luckily enough,
we’d also come across a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering,
and Mathematics (NASEM) which is meant to help states develop indicator systems to
monitor educational equity, which we thought was also a really great framing for the
scan because it laid out a set of equity indicators that were organized into these seven
overarching domains. So, we asked ECS to help us determine whether states had
policies that aligned with the NASEM indicators. While we weren’t able address each of
the indicators in the scan, we did review a set of policies that aligned with at least one of
the indicators within each of the seven domains.

We then took some time to determine how best to disseminate the findings from the
scan. We wanted to create a product that was interesting and decipherable to multiple
audiences, user-friendly, and visually appealing, which is the tool we released this past
September. We are really proud of the end product and hope our audience will find it useful.

Yes! I’ve had a chance to explore the tool. Its interactive design and intuitive layout certainly make it a resource I will come back to. That’s it for now, but thanks for the discussion, Clarissa! I’m looking forward to spending time with your team to learn and share more about this tool.