At the outset of the 2020 school year, Noble set a bold and ambitious goal of becoming a more antiracist organization. Since then, Noble announced our anti-racism commitment (ARC), we engaged thousands of families in surveys and feedback to guide a reexamination of policies and practice. Since February, grounded in that feedback from parents, students, and alumni, ARC design teams have been meeting to guide the way forward on Noble policy and practice as it relates to our student code of conduct, uniform, promotion and graduation requirements, curriculum design and more. Those design teams then shared draft proposals with groups of Noble stakeholders for intensive feedback – hundreds of Noble family members, staff, students, and alumni engaged in these refine team spaces. 

This post shares some key milestones in that work from this spring.

(note: these updates were also shared with staff in the monthly staff newsletters)

February

Noble releases antiracism commitment during a live event.

Noble releases the Reimagine Noble community survey which receives more than 3,900 responses from students, families, community members, alumni, and staff. 

March

Noble announces design and refine processes for four key areas: 

SCC, Audit, & Dress Code Design – Brenda Cora

The ARC design team focused on reimagining the SCC, student uniform, and safe & supportive audit had their first meeting on Thursday, March 11th.  The team used our community stakeholder survey results to answer key questions, such as: Does a school uniform ensure an equitable and positive student experience? Should students be held accountable for poor and unsafe choices? What is an unsafe and poor choice? Student and parent voices shaped the foundations of the work for this design team. 

Instructional Core Design – Co-led by Kyle Cole & Tierionna Pinkston

By Tuesday, March 9th, the Instructional Core Design Team membership, and leadership had been finalized.  After receiving and conducting a deep review of ~80 applications, the selection committee arrived at a team consisting of 30 members.  The team is made up of roughly 1/3 instructional staff (from a variety of contents and grade levels), 1/3 non-instructional staff, and 1/3 parents, students, and alumni.  In terms of its racial breakdown, the team consists of 11 African-American/Black members, 9 LatinX/Hispanic members, 8 White members, and 2 members identifying as Asian-American. The group decided upon meeting on a three-week cadence from March through December 2021. 

Mission, Vision, & Core Values (The Noble Identity) – Co-led by Tressie McDonough & Constance (CJ) Jones 

Through the lens of anti-racism, we began the process of redefining our Noble Identity—why we exist, how we work with one another, and what we do at Noble so that we have organizational clarity around our common identity and a springboard for cascading clarity throughout our organization. As part of our anti-racism commitment, we centered the voices and experiences of our students and families to inform and shape decisions. Thanks to the Equity Team and Government and Community Affairs Team for their hard work on gathering a robust parent and student perspective through our Reimagining Noble Survey and a thorough phone banking campaign conducted through the month of March. These perspectives gathered along with input from ARC refine teams will be used to shape the redesign of our Noble Identity in service to students and their families. The design team provided an *Optional Action Item* providing opportunities to share input with campus leadership or through the NST team, as well as a process to share individual perspectives directly via a survey that was due by Wednesday, April 21st.

Academic Operations – Co-led by Estee Kelly & Dr. Aide Acosta

The Academic Operations Design Team began their application review process in March with the goal of finalizing their committee by March 12th with a mission to execute their work on a promotion and graduation system grounded in anti-racism.

Noble also announced the Noble Staff Experience Steering Committee (SESC) led by James Troupis which functions as an additional refine forum.

With the clear need to ensure diverse staff voices are at the table for input on:

  • Noble’s commitment to anti-racism
  • Ongoing network-wide decisions
  • Noble’s navigation of the pandemic
  • New ideas and innovations

Noble launched a Staff Experience Steering Committee (SESC) that serves as an intentionally diverse group of staff members (position, tenure, race, campus, etc.) who refine decision-making through discourse and opinion-sharing. More information on the SESC can be found here. 

The team had its first meeting ahead of the recent quarter-four decision and communication providing significant influence on the direction of both. In the months ahead the committee will be a core group serving as a staff voice in the refinement of policy changes emerging from the antiracism commitment work happening.

April

The design and refine teams were hard at work. Here’s the April update for each design team:

SCC, Audit, & Dress Code Design – Brenda Cora

During spring break, the SCC design team met with Matthew Kincaid of Overcoming Racism to reconcile with Noble’s 21-year uniform policy: what the uniform means and how it sustains white supremacy culture. With Kincaid, the team discussed how we balance our understanding of assimilation regarding ‘proper dress code’ and what parents are saying they want for their kids in terms of Noble attire? The design team went on to create a single dress code recommendation that hoped to fulfill the purposes that the current Noble uniform served for our parents while also giving our students more choices that don’t require adults to police students’ bodies.  Over the following two weeks, the design team presented this recommendation to our parents, students, staff, and principal refine teams for feedback.   

Instructional Core Design – Co-led by Kyle Cole & Tierionna Pinkston

The Instructional Core Design Team met for the first time the week before Spring Break-. They spent their initial meeting building relational trust and diving deep into stakeholder survey feedback, specifically identifying trends around parent and student beliefs surrounding Noble’s academic experience.  Using the concept of the “Instructional Core” as a framework, the team met during the week of April 12th to begin to articulate Noble’s current state of the Instructional Core and drafted an aspirational Instructional Core. The outlined aspirational Instructional Core is what the group brought to refine team groups (staff, students, parents, principals, alumni) throughout May for feedback and refinement. 

Mission, Vision, Core Values & Commitments (The Noble Identity) – Co-led by Constance (CJ) Jones & Tressie McDonough 

Through the lens of anti-racism, the design team worked to redefine the Noble Identity—why we exist, how we work with one another, and what we do at Noble — continuing to center the voices and experiences of our students and families to inform and shape decisions. The design team continued phone banking and gathering perspectives via direct survey feedback and shared campus / NST team anecdotes through April 21st.

Academic Operations – Co-led by Dr. Aide Acosta & Estee Kelly

The Academics Operations Design Team (AODT) was finalized and committed to an initial meeting cadence through May 2021. The AODT is co-led by Dr. Aidé Acosta, Chief College Officer, and Estée Kelly, Chief Schools Officer, and 14 Noble staff members considering the following questions:  What is the profile of a Noble graduate? What does an equitable promotion/graduation policy rooted in ARC look like at Noble? How do we ensure equitable access (with and across campuses) to honors classes and college credit-bearing courses?  What should be Noble’s standard grading policy? The design team identified several outcomes including a new policy grounded on a credit system (and potentially other criteria) for the 21-22 SY and an equitable grading policy will become the focus for the summer of 2021 through December of 2021. 

May

In May, refine processes kicked into high gear with hundreds of Noble stakeholders engaging in intensive conversations to provide feedback on proposals in progress. Here’s a snapshot of the work of each team:

Audit & Dress Code Design – Brenda Cora

During recent design meetings, the team began the process of considering the Safe and Supportive Audit for a reimagined Noble by answering three key questions about this tool:

  1. What purpose does it serve?
  2. What problem will it attempt to solve?
  3. What values do we want it to be aligned with?

While the design team provided recommendations for the tool – specifically, naming a desire to make sure that the tool provides campuses with feedback and growth opportunities that are aligned to our Anti-Racism Commitment, The Noble Classroom, and our Culture Tenets – the redesign was then placed in the hands of Head of Schools, Ellen Metz, to bring this process to the finish line.

SCC Design – Dr. Janine Franklin & Nicholas Jones

As part 1 of our 3-phase approach to reimaging the SCC (new name matching the redesign to be finalized soon) and our behavioral support model, The SCC design team focused on a core revamp of the current model. This was inclusive of:

  • developing a tiered model for behavioral support
  • Enhancing the focus of the “SCC” to be more asset-based and inclusive of positive language
  • Editing the “SCC” to be a more functional resource for students and families.

As a part of wrapping up this work, the team finalized the new product within a few weeks: urgently completing the work to allow for our staff to receive the development necessary for our students to return to a new Noble, while also completing the process with incredibly detailed attention to the needs of our community members.They then shifted their focus to building a model for behavioral support that delineates campus expectations and resources necessary for implementation.

 

Instructional Core Design – Co-led by Kyle Cole & Tierionna Pinkston

As part of phase one of their work, the Instructional Core Design Team has drafted a set of beliefs around the purpose of education, as well as the mindset and practices we need around students, teachers, and content within an antiracist Noble. Over the next month, these beliefs are being presented to all refine teams to make additional adjustments in support of a “final” draft prior to the summer. The general scope & timeline of the team’s three stages of work can be viewed here

 

Mission, Vision, Core Values & Commitments (The Noble Identity) – Co-led by Constance (CJ) Jones & Tressie McDonough 

The purpose of the Noble Identity Framework is to provide organizational clarity around our why, our how, and our what. Specifically, it answers the key questions: 1) Why do we exist? 2) How do we work with one another? and 3) What do we do and measure? It provides clarity around our common identity at Noble and is used as a springboard for cascading clarity throughout our organization. The design team is in the process of reimaging our core values through an antiracist lens, using input from various refine teams including staff, principals, parents, students, and Noble’s DEI Steering Committee.

Academic Operations – Co-led by Dr. Aide Acosta & Estee Kelly

In our Reimagining Noble Community survey, current scholars, alums, and families were asked what their greatest hope was for themselves (or their child) and what role Noble played in making that hope a reality.  Our current scholars expressed a desire to be happy, to be a part of a school community where they felt a sense of belonging, preparation for college and career success,  and a life of financial stability.  Our alums had similar hopes, with a greater focus on long-term life fulfillment.  Our families want their children to be happy and valued, provided with a quality education,  and prepared for success in college and the careers of their choice.  They also want their children to be held to high standards and provided with the tools needed to succeed in life outside of academics. 

In consideration of student, family and alum input via the Reimagining Noble Community survey,  our Academic Operations Design Team promotion/graduation policy proposal will be one that ensures our scholars will graduate from Noble with the skills needed to achieve their greatest aspirations in life.  This will be accomplished through a college-prep education, early exposure to careers, and a school-wide culture that affirms their identity and provides them with the knowledge and skills needed to lead successful, choice-filled lives. 

This commitment to a college-prep education, early exposure to careers and preparation for choice-filled lives is guiding our decision-making around the following questions:

  1. Should there be promotion/graduation criteria outside of academics?
  2. Can students graduate early?
  3. Will we have promotion and graduation requirements or just graduation?
  4. What constitutes a credit? Is it the number of hours or is it based on a class being everyday v. every other day?
  5. How will we ensure equitable access to honors and college-credit bearing courses within and across all 18 campuses?
  6. What systems and structures are needed at the campus and NST level to ensure the successful implementation of our new promotion and graduation policy?

June

Now, as we approach the end of the school year design teams are finalizing their proposals for final approval and a shift toward implementation. 

Stay tuned on the Noble blog and make sure you’re signed up to receive emails from Noble to receive the latest.

Antiracist Organization Monthly Updates

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