The Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is committed to providing a clear understanding of the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) work within Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS). Our work aligns with the division's core values and strategic plan, Compass to 2025. We strive every day to ensure that all students, staff members and families are treated equitably and respectfully and can thrive as part of the larger VBCPS community.

The DEI office works to promote inclusiveness and the removal of any barriers or obstacles that impact academic success. We not only validate the uniqueness of each and every member of our community, we affirm individuality and multiple perspectives. We honor the cultural identities and diverse perspectives of our entire school community.

Q: What does Diversity, Equity and Inclusion mean in VBCPS?
A: Diversity is acknowledging and valuing the differences in the people and the lived experiences they bring to our learning environment.

Equity is defined in our Educational Equity Policy 5-4 and as "fostering a barrier-free environment whereby all students…have the opportunity to benefit from the establishment of high standards and the provisions of access, support, effective and inclusive learning environments and resources required for a high-quality education."

Inclusion is valuing and intentionally integrating the contributions, input and perspectives of different groups of people into our schools.

Q: What is the role of the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in VBCPS?
A: The Office for DEI works to advance the division's efforts to embed diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the school division. We see DEI work as a transformational force in ensuring high academic excellence for all students.

Q: How might I learn more about the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion?
A: You can learn more on the DEI webpage located on the VBCPS website or contact us at
[email protected] vbschools.com.

Q: What other educational institutions are engaged in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion work?
A: VBCPS is not alone in DEI work. The State of Virginia, the Virginia Department of Education and school divisions across the Commonwealth and America are engaged in similar efforts.

Q: What VBCPS guiding documents support DEI?
A: DEI is called out and referenced in all our guiding documents that express the importance of teaching and learning in our division, including our strategic goals, Teaching and Learning Framework, Graduate Profile and Equity Policy.

Q: How does the school division define curriculum, instruction and professional learning? Why are culturally responsive practices used to inform our curriculum, instruction, and professional learning?
A: Curriculum is standard-based essentials for teaching and learning. This is the what of essentials, understandings and resources. Instruction is how the curriculum is communicated to all students.

We strive for all students to receive a quality education established in equitable, reflective and rigorous learning experiences. Moreover, these learning experiences allow students to see themselves and their lived experiences and to see others and their lived experiences.

Professional learning is created to improve student achievement and encourage growth for educators. We want to personalize professional learning for transformational systems and outcomes for students and educators. Ongoing professional learning facilitates deeper learning for educators through awareness, reflection, demonstration, and discussion. Professional learning encourages active learning and engagement along with learner ownership and coaching cycles for sustainable outcomes.

VBCPS believes it is important to personalize the learning experience and environment for all students. Currently, we are building capacity for culturally responsive practices and other relevant strategies for effective decision making with the learner in mind. When the learner can see themselves and others in the learning experience, it increases their motivation and academic success.

Q: Other than professional learning provided to school staff, how might the community get involved and support DEI efforts?
A: The DEI office hosts student and family programs in partnership with community groups, such as Tidewater Community College and our schools. To find more information about the student and family programs, visit the DEI webpage on the VBCPS website.

Q: What are Culturally Responsive Practices?
A: Culturally Responsive Practices (CRP) are grounded in research and educational application, not in theory. These practices are designed to bridge the gap between learning and lived culture by focusing on authentic relationships, student experiences and pedagogy. The goal of CRP is to strengthen student engagement and build a culture that values both individuality and inclusivity. Cultural responsiveness embodies a multifaceted approach that considers leadership, teachers, students, the learning environment, and the community as foundational factors for academic achievement and social empowerment. This verbiage is based on that of Culturally Responsive Teaching (also referred to as CRT), a pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students' cultural identities in all aspects of learning.

A workgroup led by Department of Teaching and Learning (DTAL) administrators, which included stakeholders from various offices and departments as well as teachers and school-based leaders, developed our CRP framework and shared language that was presented to the School Board in 2018. The CRP division-level professional development offered to our educators since then is centered around that language and understanding.

Q: Is the Culturally Responsive Practices (CRP) training based on Critical Race Theory (CRT)?
A: No, CRP training is not based on Critical Race Theory. Critical Race Theory is an academic theory that centers on looking at the role race plays in society in terms of disparate impact across laws and institutions, for example. CRP focus on teaching practices that honor and build on the strengths of diverse learners in our classroom and in our schools.

Q: What is Critical Theory?
A: Critical Theory is a philosophy in the social sciences which argues that social problems are influenced more by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual factors.

Q: What is Critical Race Theory?
A: Critical Race Theory, often referred to as CRT, is defined by Britannica as an "intellectual movement and loosely organized framework of legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. Critical race theorists hold that the law and legal institutions in the United States are inherently racist insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans."

Q: Are you teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) in any of your professional development or curriculum?
A: No. The American Bar Association emphasizes that CRT is not "a diversity and inclusion 'training' but a practice of interrogating race and racism in society that emerged in the legal academy and spread to other fields of scholarship." CRT is not part of the work at VBCPS.

Q: What theories are the training for Culturally Responsive Practices (CRP) based on?
A: In Virginia Beach, much of the work around CRP is grounded in Jacqueline Irvine's Culturally Responsive Teaching: Lesson Planning, Geneva Gay's Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research and Practice, Gloria Ladson-Billings' Dreamkeepers, Yvette Jackson's The Pedagogy of Confidence, and Zaretta Hammond's Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain.

Based on review of those works and other research, VBCPS has created its own definition of Culturally Responsive Practices, which is used to provide shared language for the school division for instructional delivery, planning, and reflection. A workgroup led by Department of Teaching and Learning (DTAL) administrators, which included stakeholders from various offices and departments as well as teachers and school-based leaders, developed this framework and shared language around CRP and presented it to the School Board in 2018. The CRP division-level professional development offered to our educators since 2018 is centered around this language and understanding. Moreover, CRP and equity live within our strategic goals, Teaching and Learning Framework, Graduate Profile and our Equity Policy.

Q: What are the objectives and goals for CRP training?
A: Objectives for sessions on CRP training are centered on the shared language and understanding of culturally responsive practices in VBCPS. Session goals and objectives are focused on the integration of culturally responsive practices (such as Yvette Jackson's High Operational Practices) across classrooms, content areas, and student groups to best teach and reach diverse student populations. Each session is specifically tailored to support integration and application based on the audience, be it parents, instructional coaches, teachers, school leaders and/or central office staff.

Objectives include:

  • Acknowledging each person's unique cultural story.
  • Recognizing the nature of cultural identity, cultural differences and cultures in the learning environment.
  • Acquiring best-practices and approaches in teaching for cultural differences.
  • Developing an understanding of what are Culturally Responsive Practices.
  • Considering how a systemic approach to Culturally Responsive Practices implementation provides for alignment and sustainability across classrooms and schools.
  • Sharing ways in which our VBCPS curriculum supports Culturally Responsive Practices implementation.

Q:Can you tell us more about what changes are being made to the CRP training?
A: There are currently no changes planned for the CRP training. It is possible that you have heard about training that will be required under the division's equity policy. As has been shared numerous times with the School Board, no new training will be developed until after an equity assessment is completed. That training will be identified as a part of an Equity Plan that is required by policy and which will be developed in consultation with the School Board and community.

Q: Is there any evidence of how a training like this has positively impacted other school systems?
A: Please see the following resources:

Region X Equity Assistance Center at Education Northwest - Culturally Responsive Teaching

U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences - Culturally Responsive Instruction: Best Practices and Supports

Christy M. Byrd, assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz - Does Culturally Relevant Teaching Work? An Examination from Student Perspectives

Ceedar Center – Culturally Responsive Teaching

Q: Who can I email or speak with to learn more about the training?
A: You are welcome to contact the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to discuss any comments, questions or suggestions you may have at [email protected]