By Marilyn Rubin



On his first day in office in January 2021, President Biden signed Federal Executive Order #13985, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities through the Federal Government, directing federal agencies to assess whether their policies and actions equitably serve all eligible individuals and communities, especially those who are underserved. Agency Equity Action Plans would be a critical component of this assessment.  In April 2022, more than 90 federal agencies, including all Cabinet-level agencies, released Equity Action Plans with a wide array of strategies and commitments to address systemic barriers to equity in policies and programs.[1] In 2023, the Action Plans were updated to provide examples of accomplishments as well as additional actions and commitments to advance equity.

In this project, we are looking to see how the states are following the federal government’s path to advancing equity across agency policies and programs.  We are particularly interested in whether agencies are including equity in their performance assessments but are also identifying related agency actions to advance equity.

Progress to Date

We have not yet identified specific state legislation requiring agencies to include equity as a performance indicator.  However, we are finding that many states and state agencies are undertaking other initiatives to advance equity. Some examples of these initiatives follow.


In early 2023, the Connecticut Equity Study (CES) was undertaken. The CES was overseen by the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, in consultation with the Department of Administrative Services, the Office of Policy and Management, and private sector consultants. The primary goal of the CES was to provide a comprehensive report evaluating state programs and policies across 23 state executive branch agencies– including at least one program of focus at each agency – to identify any patterns of discrimination, inequality, or disparities in outcomes for underserved communities and to make recommendations for improvement. The CES final report, issued in January 2024,[2] provides several recommendations for agencies to implement in their efforts to break down barriers to equity in policies and programs.  The report also provides key performance indicators (KPIs) that could be used to track progress on advancing equity over time for each agency.


The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) has a specific section on its website that discusses racial equity.  The agency specifies its commitment to racial equity and enumerates when such equity will be realized such as when: “Race is not a determinant of exposure or proximity to hazardous chemicals, and exposure to hazardous chemicals is minimized across all racial and ethnic groups.”[3]


The first priority in Hawaii’s 2023-2029 Department of Education Strategic Plan II/Implementation Plan is “High-Quality Learning for all. Under Priority 1, the first goal is that “All students experience rigorous, high-quality learning that results in equitable outcomes for all learners.””[4] One of the key performance indicators that is being used to assess the progress toward meeting this goal is ‘Equity in Student Learning,’ using measures related to on-time graduation rates by race/ethnicity, special education, and economic status.


Nevada law requires the State Board of Education to develop a five-year strategic plan – officially referred to as the “Statewide Plan for the Improvement of Pupils” – to improve the achievement of students enrolled in public schools across the state. One of the values that sets the foundation for the plan is equity in which, “The learning needs of every student are supported in an environment where all students are valued, respected, and see themselves in their curriculum and instructional materials while experiencing academic success without regard to differences in age, gender, socio-economic status, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability, native language, national origin, or citizenship status.”[5]

Way Forward

We are continuing to search for state initiatives to advance equity across government agencies, with a particular focus on equity in agency performance assessments. We are also identifying related agency actions to advance equity that could provide models for New Jersey in its efforts to advance equity in the delivery of state services.