During the spring of 2016, the Board of Education created an equity initiative to address racial disparities in achievement, focusing on African-American students. The Initiative stemmed from a long-term analysis of data that indicated disparities in academic performance and disproportionate representation in programs. The guiding statements for the Initiative included:
- No decline in subgroup performance or in overall District performance.
- Rise in subgroup performance and in overall District performance, with Initiative subgroup proportionally and appropriately represented throughout the District academic and broader learning spectrum.
- Increased knowledge and effective practices will extend beyond Initiative, with the result of stronger academic scores and stronger overall educational experience for all District students.
A Steering Committee was formed in 2016. The Committee worked with a consultant, Katib Waheed, to develop Dimensions (focus areas) of the Initiative. The following have been the Dimensions we have used as to guide our work:
- Dimension - School Culture - Using a racially equitable, culturally competent framework that is inclusive of diverse perspectives and that addresses African-American students’ needs, abilities and aspirations in order to enhance learning.
- Dimension - Data - Using a racial equity framework to gather, compile and analyze data to share and to inform decisions to responsibly reduce the racial disparity gaps and increase achievement, social-emotional well-being, and participation rates in classes, activities and leadership opportunities.
- Dimension – Parent Partnerships/Community Engagement - Using a racially equitable, culturally competent framework that builds a more comprehensive school community that values, supports and includes the diverse perspectives of our families of African-American students regarding their children’s needs, abilities, school experiences, and aspirations.
- Dimension - HR/Personnel - Using a racial equity framework to design and implement processes for recruiting, hiring and retaining a diverse workforce capable of ensuring and sustaining academic progress for a racially, ethnically and socially diverse student body.
- Dimension - Research and Best Practices - Using a racially equitable, culturally competent framework to inform and strengthen teaching to enhance student learning for African-American students.
Since that development of the dimensions, we have focused on creating and implementing our action steps on those dimensions. As we engage with this work, our thinking changes as we learn more. Looking at Conage’s Continuum of Education Equity, we moved beyond the status quo and initially did a great deal of work around awareness. We designed a professional development model that allowed for ongoing learning focused on biases, identity, stereo-types and culturally responsive teaching. Racism awareness was a component of the work, yet did not go to the depth needed for systemic change. Our goal is to get to the end of Conage’s Continuum and to sustain the work so it has a substantive and sustainable impact on the achievement of Black/African American students.
We need to move beyond just acknowledging inequities in regards to race. We need to take an in-depth understanding of racism and how it impacts behaviors, mindsets, systems and actions (or lack of actions) that lead to inequities in our school system. We also need to assure that culturally responsive teaching is assured in each of our classrooms. There is urgency to this work because our students are in our District for a limited amount of time.
The focus of this summary report is specifically on the action steps that we are taking and need to take in order for us to reach systemic transformation. In order to accomplish this, the following are suggestions about what could be next steps for the Board and the Administration:
- Establish a common definition of equity. Be specific that our focus is racial equity.
- Revise the current Board Initiative so it is specific to goals and connected to targeted data points.
- Establish a Board Advisory to revise the Initiative and to have oversight of the District’s progress
- Ensure Black/African American student voices are a part of the work
- Develop systems for all students to talk about race
This report is a summary of the action steps that we believe will have a systemic impact on maximizing the success of Black/ African American students. It is not an exhaustive list of every activity we do related to equity. We are becoming more cognizant of what work is actually promoting change and what work that might be a detour to becoming stronger. We framed our action steps under each Dimension, provided a brief summary and indicated if the work is in progress or being proposed.