Why Equity is Important to SMART
SMART was established to improve reading outcomes for Oregon kids, helping them develop literacy skills, self-confidence, and a love of reading. Literacy creates opportunities and choices for children; a lack of reading skills limits those opportunities and choices.
As an early literacy program focused on helping children succeed with reading and learning, we acknowledge that deep racial, cultural, social, and economic inequities in our country and state make it harder for some children to succeed compared to others. We launched our Equity Initiative to address the fact that children need different inputs to reach the same outcome – in our case, meeting or exceeding the third-grade reading benchmark.
Research proves that the education gap between white students and students of color arises for a number of reasons. The children we serve are from many different backgrounds, some of which create advantages or disadvantages in the education system. Our country, state, and society also perpetuate systemic, institutional, and cultural biases that reinforce inequality. These inequities and inequalities stand in the way of succeeding at our mission.
SMART’s Commitment to Equity
Together with our network of 5,000 volunteers reading with almost 10,000 students each year, we have an opportunity to change the story when it comes to the education gap in Oregon. We have a responsibility to better understand and serve the children in our program and to examine our organization, systems, and policies for bias and inequities. Issues of race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, class, ability, geography, age, and other forms of bias must be identified and addressed in every aspect of our business.
We expect equity to be prioritized in every facet of our organization, impacting:
- The children and families we serve
- The volunteers we recruit, train, and retain
- The staff we hire, train, and support
- The communities in which we serve and operate
We began our Equity Initiative with an intentional focus on racial equity because inequities of a racial nature rise to the highest level of severity and negative impact on the educational outcomes of the students we serve. While we began with racial equity as our guiding framework, we also keep sight of other inequities and discrimination that exist for our children.
We acknowledge that this is a long and complex journey for any organization; we are committed to continual assessment and modification of our work.
Our Mission: We engage community volunteers to read one-on-one with PreK to third-grade children who need literacy support. Participating children also receive new books each month to keep and read with their families.
Our Vision: An Oregon where every child can read and is empowered to succeed.