On May 15, the Policy Committee of the District 65 School Board decided to send a draft Equity Policy, with one amendment, to the School Board for review and approval. Corrie Wallace, the equity consultant for the District, presented the policy to the Committee.

A prior draft of the Equity Policy was discussed by the Policy Committee on Feb. 27.  Paul Goren, Superintendent, said the current draft is “more clear and concise and not too long.”

Board President Suni Kartha added, “The language seems stronger and more direct in identifying the problem and what we’re going to do about it.”

The prior draft provided, in part, “The purpose of this policy is to establish a framework for the elimination of bias, particularly racism and cultural bias, as factors affecting student achievement and learning experiences, and to promote learning and working environments that welcome, respect and value diversity.” 

The revised draft policy adds language to the stated purpose of the prior draft that says, “The racial predictability of achievement and disciplinary outcomes is attributable to institutional racism, cultural biases and other societal factors.”

 The revised draft policy continues, “The district recognizes that in order to provide educational opportunities that result in equitable outcomes particularly for Black and Latinx students, that it must proactively acknowledge and intentionally address racial and cultural biases, in an effort to eliminate institutional structures and practices that affect student learning and achievement.”

When asked why the revised Equity Policy did not include an express reference to household income as a factor impacting achievement, Ms. Wallace told the RoundTable, “If you look at our school system in the United States, there were laws that precluded black people specifically from being educated and so when we try to talk about income as a factor, they were not allowed to go to school because they could not pay for school, they were not allowed to go to school because of their skin color. So it’s really important to understand that factor in our school systems today.”

Ms. Wallace said that poverty and household income are “societal factors,” which is a phrase included in the revised Equity Policy and added, “We have to understand the factors that contribute to poverty as well.”  

The revised Equity Policy lists four responsibilities of the Board:

• Engage in equity training;

• Work to increase outreach to and participation of families that represent the diversity of students and ensure that Evanston’s and Skokie’s treasured diversity is not maintained on the backs of Brown, Black, Latinx and multiracial children;

• Allocate resources in an intentional and fiscally responsible manner by providing every student with equitable access to high quality curricula, culturally competent adults, supports, facilities and other educational resources; and,

• Use an equity lens in making all significant decisions.

Once approved, the policy provides that the Superintendent shall develop procedures to implement the policy, which shall include an action plan with clear accountability and metrics.  The Superintendent shall annually report on progress towards meeting the equity plan.

Dr. Goren said, if the policy is approved by the Board, he would seek input from the District’s Racial and Equity Team and develop the procedures over the summer. The procedures will include a guide to ensure that all decisions are made using an equity lens.

The revised Equity Policy, as amended, contains nine commitments relating to professional development, development of culturally relevant curriculum, hiring practices, fostering parent/family involvement, allocating resources, improving school climate, exploring multiple pathways to success, and developing racial literacy and social identity.

Policy Committee Chair Sergio Hernandez suggested adding the ninth commitment, which the Policy Committee concurred with, namely working with partnering organizations in the Cradle to Career initiative and other organizations to achieve collective impact.

Ms. Kartha said there is not enough of a sense of urgency. She said, though, “This problem did not come overnight. It will not be solved overnight.” She said the District needed to strike a balance between working toward the long-term, while maintaining a sense of urgency for individual students in the system.

It is anticipated that the Board will consider and act on the proposed Equity Policy at its next meeting.

Larry Gavin

Larry Gavin was a co-founder of the Evanston RoundTable in 1998 and assisted in its conversion to a non-profit in 2021. He has received many journalism awards for his articles on education, housing and...