On May 22, the District 65 School Board discussed a proposed “Racial and Educational Equity Policy” for the District. After making several amendments to the policy, the Board approved it by a 6-0 vote.
The Equity Policy had been previously reviewed by administrators, the District Equity Leadership Team, and the Board’s Policy Committee on two occasions.
The Equity Policy has three sections: Purpose, Responsibilities, and Commitments.
The first section of the Equity Policy, as amended, states in part, “District 65 recognizes that excellence requires a commitment to equity and to identifying practices, policies and institutional barriers, including institutional racism and privilege which perpetuate opportunity and achievement gaps for students of color in D65. The racial predictability of achievement and disciplinary outcomes is attributable to institutional racism, cultural biases and other societal factors. 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.
“The purpose of this policy is, in accordance with the Racial and Educational Equity Statement, 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…”
In discussing the proposed Equity Policy, Board member Candance Chow proposed that this section contain an express statement that the purpose of the Equity Policy is to eliminate the predictability of achievement. She also suggested that the phrase, “The racial predictability of achievement and disciplinary outcomes is attributable to racism, cultural biases and other societal factors,” expressly refer to “socioeconomic disparities.”
Board President Suni Kartha said she assumed that “socioeconomic disparities” were included in the phrase “other societal factors,” and if they listed all the “other societal factors,” it would be a long list. She noted that in the Racial and Educational Equity Statement approved by the Board on Aug. 29, 2016, the District committed to: “raising the achievement of all students while eliminating the racial predictability of achievement, and raising the achievement of all students while eliminating the predictability of academic achievement based upon family income, disabilities, gender identity, and status as an English language learner.”
Ms. Kartha said the Equity Statement addressed the concerns raised by Ms. Chow, and suggested, as a compromise, that the Equity Statement be expressly referred to in the Equity Policy. Ms. Chow agreed, and the Equity Policy was amended to include a reference to the Equity Statement.
The second section of the Equity Policy, as amended, provides
• “Engage in equity training: All Board members shall participate in equity training to build collective capacity to more effectively educate and better serve a racially and ethnically diverse student population, students’ families and communities.
• “ 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 to the detriment 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. …”
Ms. Chow suggested substituting the phrase “to the detriment of” in the second bullet point for the language initially proposed: “on the backs of.”
Board member Joseph Hailpern argued to keep the “on the backs of” language, stating it is “supposed to create a little tension and discomfort, and that discomfort is what motivates us to move.”
Ms. Chow replied, “This is a Policy that has to guide lots of stakeholders, so a shared understanding of what it means is important.”
Ms. Kartha said, “I think it’s okay if we change that to “to the detriment of.”
The Equity Policy also provides that the Superintendent shall develop procedures to implement the policy, which shall include an action plan with clear accountability and metrics, and that the superintendent shall annually report on progress towards meeting the equity plan.
The third section of the 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, identifying multiple pathways to success, developing racial literacy and social identity, and active engagement with partners.
Mr. Hailpern said, “What this policy seeks to do for me is cut the pendulum that swings education by the very chain it hangs on. This policy is more like a stake in the ground that says here in this town, across the borders of our school houses, we seek to eliminate polices, practices, and barriers that exist in this organization that perpetuate institutional racism and contribute to the opportunity and education gaps in our schools. …
“The time is now to break the cycles that exist in our school system, that are not unique to Evanston, but are part of a larger issue surrounding race and equity in America.”
Superintendent Paul Goren said he would seek input from the District’s Racial and Equity Team and develop the procedures to implement the policy over the summer. The procedures will include a guide to ensure that all decisions are made using an equity lens, he said.