Identify Safe Classrooms

  • RHS is collaborating with Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, co-author of Identity Safe Classrooms: Places to Belong and Learn, in an innovative pilot program that integrates personalized education and the equity-focused framework of identity safety. In Identity-Safe Classrooms, teachers use child-centered teaching, cultivate diversity, facilitate positive student relationships, and establish orderly, purposeful classrooms to increase equity and improve academic achievement. Teachers display cultural competence, understand implicit bias and actively counteract discrimination.

    Identity safe classrooms are those in which teachers strive to ensure students that their social identities are an asset rather than a barrier to success in the classroom. And, through strong positive relationships and opportunities to learn, students from all backgrounds feel they are welcomed, supported, and valued as members of the learning community (C.M. Steele and D.M. Steele).

    This evidence-based model was the subject of a research study, "The Stanford Integrated Schools Project", conducted in 84 diverse elementary classrooms. The study found evidence that when teachers used identity safe teaching strategies, students felt more identity safe, achieved at higher levels, performed better on the state-mandated testes, and liked school more.

    Identity-safe classrooms are student-centered, so they work well in the context of a personalized and blended learning environment. Teachers develop a framework for assuring each student's voice is heard and that their identities and backgrounds are acknowledged and they are fully engaged in classroom life. Without deeply disrupting and countering the negative stereotypes that permeate our society, many students of color and other students from stigmatized groups do not feel they fully belong and do not reach their academic potential. Without drawing from each child's unique identities, students cannot fully thrive in the classroom. By developing the framework of identity safety, a personalization model can better reach all students.

    At Redwood Heights, all educators are engaged in ongoing efforts to examine their practice and identify and practice these strategies for creating identity safe classrooms.