Engaging School and District Administrators

Tool 16: Create and conduct a school climate survey.

Tool 17: Promote student work and share student testimonies.

Tool 18: Use family support in advocating for teaching honest history.

Tool 19: Use colleague support and solidarity for teaching honest history.

Administrative and district-level advocacy is central to a positive working environment for educators. When school and district leaders explicitly express support for their teachers and for honest histories, educators feel more encouraged to keep doing this important work. On the other hand, administrators who actively reject the teaching of honest histories or are simply silent about it can create discouragement, self-censorship and fear among educators.

Many principals and other school and district leaders understand the importance of research-based practices and the need to create safer and more inclusive school environments. The well-being and representation of all students should be a priority commitment of school administrators, and many administrators have taken strong stances in favor of teaching honest histories.

The following tools are aimed at helping educators gain the support of administrators in advocating for teaching honest history.

Tool 16: Create and conduct a school climate survey.

School climate is directly related to student learning. The National Center on Safe  Supportive Learning Environments states that “research has shown that positive school climate is tied to high or improving attendance rates, test scores, promotion rates, and graduation rates.”

For examples of school climate surveys, see the Local School Climate Survey from GLSEN or the Comprehensive School Climate Inventory from the National School Climate Center.

To engage school and district leaders, it can be helpful for educators to gather data that demonstrates broad support from their constituents around teaching honest history. For example, create and send out a school climate survey to members of the school ecosystem—including educators, parents, caregivers, community members and students—to learn their thoughts and feelings on teaching honest history. Gather both quantitative data (such as showing the percentage of people in favor of teaching these histories) and qualitative data (such as testimonials from students and their families who have benefited from learning honest histories). Present the collected and analyzed data to your administrators as evidence of the importance and value of teaching honest histories in your school community.

Tool 17: Promote student work and share student testimonies.

Students want to learn about honest histories—and their perspectives can, and should, have the most power in enacting real change. To engage students in this conversation, educators can collect and share student testimony on how teaching honest histories affects their learning and present that information to administrators. Educators can also consider encouraging students to advocate to administrators, engaging in dialogue as to why learning honest histories helps them make more meaningful connections to history and their communities. Perhaps the most powerful way students can advocate to administrators is by showing them samples of work they complete on the topic.

Tool 18: Use family and caregiver support in advocating for teaching honest history.

“Inclusive curriculum incorporates accurate lessons about historical events, figures and issues relevant to LGBTQ+ people and communities that have long been underrepresented in textbooks and other materials. Accurate and inclusive lessons not only affirm LGBTQ+ students, but also give non-LGBTQ+ students clear information about the diverse world around them and help prepare all young people to navigate and contribute to a multicultural society.”

From “Inclusive Education Benefits All Children” by Melanie Willingham-Jaggers and GLSEN

Educators can elevate the perspectives of supportive families and caregivers in their efforts to engage administrators in this work. Families and caregivers can call, email or visit administrators to express their support.

Additionally, educators may create opportunities for parents and caregivers to come into school and see what teaching honest history looks like in action or discuss the history. This can be a community conversation that includes administrators, students, parents and caregivers, along with educators. For example, one educator from Georgia said they host conversation nights for parents and caregivers to come in and talk with one another about the honest histories being taught in the classroom.

If administrators see these conversations and hear words of support from caregivers and community members, they will be more inclined to ensure honest history is taught in their schools.

Tool 19: Use colleague support and solidarity for teaching honest history.

The power of collective advocacy with colleagues in the school building is necessary to advocate to administrators for the teaching of honest histories. Whether it is through a PLC or another means, educators can band together in solidarity to express concerns and emphasize the need to ensure that honest histories are taught in their school. Some educators may feel apprehensive about challenging administrators in support of this work for fear of backlash. However, there is strength in numbers. Use your community of allies to advocate together for continuing to teach honest histories in your school.

Administrators play an important role in setting the tone in schools. By creating an inclusive environment that uplifts students and educators, administrators lay the foundation for honest histories to be taught in their schools. Administrators can, and should, be among our main allies in this work.

Supplemental Resource

Students Say Teach the Truth

In the LFJ article “Students Say Teach the Truth” by Elizabeth Kleinrock, one ninth grader comments: “It is so important for young children to learn about others’ gender identity, race and culture, without being taught to have a [closed-minded] view on people who are different from them. Learning about and accepting differences from young ages is so important because it sets up their views on life from a young age. In today’s society we need to have people growing up knowing that they are safe and accepted rather than scared. They need to grow up without the fear of being hurt due to race, sexuality, gender, etc. The main way to do this is by incorporating unbiased information into classes and letting students learn who they are and why it is important to stand for what you believe in and to accept others.”