Equity and Inclusion at Corlears

The Corlears mission has always been centered on making a space for young children to learn and grow in terms of their compassion, imagination, critical thinking, and leadership. We approach all of our work supporting this character growth through an understanding of the developmental needs of young children. As it relates to equity and inclusion, there are two critical foundations that young children need: positive self-identities, and an understanding of how to acknowledge and celebrate difference in an inclusive and equitable way.

As a school, we achieve these two foundational goals through active modeling as an institution. This means that we intentionally design all our community interactions to be as inclusive and equitable as possible, and we strive to create a community in which each member can see themselves represented and valued. This work translates to every aspect of our community life: how we design our admission process, the affinity spaces that we create, how we greet each other in the morning, what books are in our classroom libraries, and so on.

our approach to social justice education

We explicitly provide our students with the language and understanding to recognize and celebrate their own identity and the identity of others. We teach the children to see things from multiple perspectives and to consider the needs of others amongst their own. We provide structures that allow them to explore situations that are unfair, and provide them with the tools to have a point of view and take action to support fairness where they choose.

The Corlears Social Justice Initiative

Corlears began its social justice initiative in 2015, through a collaboration with a Board of Trustees task force named the “Partnership for Equity and Inclusion.” The goal of the initiative has been to examine all aspects of the school’s operations and its mission, through the lens of social justice, equity, and inclusion. Since this initiative started, the faculty and staff have engaged in a tremendous amount of work in integrating conversations about identity, fairness, justice and action into daily life and curricular studies.

Evolution of Social Justice, Equity, and Inclusion at Corlears

Our social justice program has evolved in a thoughtful way in the four years since its implementation.

  • During our first year (2015-16), the Corlears faculty and staff focused on ourselves, on our own identities, and how our identity influences everything we do.

  • In our second year (2016-17), we focused on the students, creating space for talking about identity, fairness, justice and action, as well as looking at resources to support the work professionally, and assess our materials to ensure diverse and inclusive representations of identity in our classrooms. 

  • During our third year (2017-18) we focused on the educational program, including the identity and fairness curriculum in the 6/7s and the social justice morning meetings in the 8/9s and 10s, to develop a common vocabulary across classrooms and age levels.

    We also supported conversations around social justice, equity, and inclusion with families, through a partnership with the PA Community Forum, around topics such as Talking About Race with Children, Raising Race Conscious Children, and more.

  • During the fourth year (2018-19), we began to examine aspects of the school’s operations through the lens of social justice, equity, and inclusion, such as the creation of community forums to discuss issues of social justice; the development of the Parents of Students of Color (POSOC) affinity group; and the creation of inclusive spaces that allow all children to see themselves reflected in their learning. We also hired a Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Community Life to serve on the administrative leadership team at Corlears, to reflect our commitment to social justice, and enhance our initiatives to embrace equity and inclusivity at all levels.

How Social Justice, Equity, and Inclusion Live in Our Educational Program

The social justice themes of identity, diversity, justice and action have always been a significant piece of the educational experience at Corlears. The curriculum has been developed to match the developmental readiness of the students at each age level. As the children move along, the concepts and conversations spiral and grow in complexity, allowing time and opportunity for children to build a robust context of understanding. As children grow, their ability to notice, question, and understand identity, diversity, justice and action deepens and becomes more complex. As they move through developmental stages, the inquiries and explorations connected to social justice grow, too.

At Corlears we strive to foster change-makers and leaders in this world, and this is where the work starts. We are continually reflecting and assessing our practice along the way, with the ultimate goal of building the foundation for our children’s future social justice learning.


Faculty & Staff Training

The faculty and staff at Corlears have engaged in a multitude of professional development, both internally and with outside experts, to help guide and support this work over the last three years. We do not see this work as a trend; rather, we see it as an imperative.

Every faculty member at Corlears is required to participate in the Center for Racial Justice in Education’s Talking about Race in the Classroom training.

In addition, faculty and staff are also encouraged to attend additional trainings such as Disrupting Racism, Raising Race Conscious Children, the NAIS People of Color Conference, CARLE Institute, and the NYSAIS Diversity Conference.

Corlears has also served as a host for the White Anti Racist Educators (WARE) group. Additionally, all faculty participate in caucus groups and affinity spaces to increase and deepen dialogue around their experiences related to race and ethnicity, and intersectionality with aspects of social identity.

Corlears Social Justice, Equity, and Inclusion by Age Level

Partnership for Equity and Inclusion

The Partnership for Equity and Inclusion (PEI) is a board of trustees task force that evolved from the board’s Diversity Committee. The Diversity Committee was formed in 2006 as part of a response to a diversity audit conducted that year for Corlears by Orpheus Crutchfield, at StratéGenius. The original Diversity Committee began establishing spaces for community dialogue and support for parents around issues of equity and inclusion and created the school’s Diversity Statement (formally adopted in 2009).

The committee became a Task Force in 2015 to allow a more dynamic membership that includes non-trustee parents and staff members. The committee is a collaborative group consisting of administration, parents, board members, and faculty. In 2015, PEI established the goal of developing a larger, school wide social justice initiative.

Over the course of several years, PEI has served as a resource and strategic body to support the ongoing educational program work, as well as the parent conversation. Most recently, PEI hosted a very special event, 50 Years of Social Justice at Corlears School. An amazing cross-section of families, students, and teachers from every decade of the school’s history shared powerful stories about the on-going and developing efforts with the work around social justice, identity, and race at Corlears.