MSAN Institute to welcome K–12 leaders from across the country for learning on racial equity

Registration open through March 21; proposals for breakout sessions due March 1

February 19, 2024   |   By Karen Rivedal, WCER Communications

Registration is open now through March 21 for the 2024 MSAN Institute, a 2-day professional learning conference for K–12 teachers, principals, and school district leaders nationwide who want to learn about current research and district practices that further racial equity in schools.

To be held April 18–19 at the Madison Concourse Hotel, the program will include breakout sessions, networking groups, keynote speakers, and the perennial conference highlight: reflections from a panel of high school students who are equity leaders in their schools.

“We do our best to bring student voices to the table,” says Connie Showalter, project manager for MSAN for the past 14 years.

Hosted annually by UW–Madison’s MSAN (Multicultural Student Achievement Network), the conference last year brought 175 school leaders to Madison for a program focused on addressing the educator shortage crisis while recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce. This year the conference will focus on evaluating equity initiatives and utilizing data for systems change. Conference breakouts and keynote presentations will address this theme as well as the broad theme of advancing equity and change in schools.


MSAN Executive Director Latoya Holiday

“Unfortunately, school districts continue to face significant challenges in serving all students well and truly preparing all students for life and work in our ever-changing, increasingly diverse, global society,” says Latoya Holiday, executive director of MSAN. “It’s important for educators and leaders to continue to learn and grow in their work so that we can continue to find ways to shift the practices and culture of our schools. This conference is a tremendous opportunity to engage and think differently about what we’re doing day to day in our schools.”

Now in its 25th year, MSAN is a national coalition of 26 multiracial school districts working together to build the capacity for advocacy skills of students and educational practitioners through communities of practice that positively impact the educational experiences of all students, with an emphasis on Black, Indigenous, and students of color. Headquartered in Madison as a project of the School of Education’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research (WCER) since 2007, MSAN is led by Holiday and a governing board of district superintendents.

In April, Institute attendees will hear from education professionals, researchers, and other local/national experts about research-based strategies and practices with a demonstrated or promising positive impact on academic achievement, access, opportunity, and sense of belonging for students of color. MSAN has issued a call for proposals through March 1 for breakout sessions created around the conference focus to help build attendees’ collective knowledge base.

Program offerings can be of value to a variety of education professionals, Holiday says—not just teachers and principals but also district-level administrators including directors of teaching and learning, equity directors, superintendents, assistant superintendents, student services staff, and family engagement specialists.

“One of the greatest strengths of this conference and of the MSAN network in general is the diversity of people and professions we bring together,” Holiday notes. “The nature of this work—transforming schools—necessitates that all leaders and those who influence what is happening in school districts be engaged and working toward the same goals. The conference will have something for everyone, and it is guaranteed that any educator that attends this conference will leave inspired and more knowledgeable about something that can inform their day-to-day practice, no matter what their position.”

Under Institute rules, each MSAN member district can send up to six people to the conference for free, with a cost of $300 per person beyond that. The cost for all registrants who are not part of an MSAN member district is $400 per person.

As a network of equity-focused districts, MSAN shares best practices, analyzes policies, and engages in professional learning opportunities, such as the MSAN Institute.

Member districts hail mainly from the East Coast (New Jersey, Massachusetts, Virginia, and North Carolina) and the Midwest (Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin.) Member school districts from Wisconsin include Madison, Middleton-Cross Plains, Sun Prairie, and Waunakee. MSAN also has two Phoenix-area district members in Arizona.

Members met in person for the Institute in April 2023 for the first time since 2019. Conferences were held online in 2021 and 2022, and it was canceled in 2020, due to the pandemic.

MSAN members last year voted to formally change the organization’s name from the Minority Student Achievement Network to the Multicultural Student Achievement Network as part of making MSAN more inclusive and reflective of the students it aims to impact the most. Holiday, who served for about a year as the interim MSAN executive director before her permanent appointment in October 2023, also led MSAN through a top-to-bottom reimagining, encompassing its equity vision and member services.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2024, Holiday and Showalter will engage in focused coaching and strategic planning with the goal of developing an MSAN Research–Practice Partnership and further refining the network's services and offerings.

“That’s going to be a really critical piece,” Holiday says. “We have to really hone the role that we want research to play and how we want to use research to support the mission of the organization.”

Holiday also wants to explore how MSAN can better support students in member districts, perhaps by providing more tools and learning opportunities for MSAN advisors in schools. And she plans to study how MSAN might expand the use of technology to better support stronger and more meaningful connections between and among member districts when they aren’t meeting in person at MSAN conferences or MSAN-organized communities of practices.

Holiday came to WCER in March 2022 as an educational policy specialist with the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative (WEC). Before that she worked for the state Department of Public Instruction—3 years as special assistant to the state superintendent and 7 years working with charter schools and the state’s private school choice programs.