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On Nov. 6, District 65 administrators presented what they called a “crosswalk” between the recommendations contained in a Racial and Educational Equity Report prepared by Corrie Wallace in May 2017 and District 65’s five-year Strategic Plan adopted by the Board in March 2015.

The Equity Report contains seven main recommendations (see sidebar), and some of those contain one or more sub-recommendations, for a total of 17 recommendations. Superintendent Paul Goren said the District is currently implementing and/or evaluating 15 of the recommendations during this school year.

Some examples of the recommendations are to provide equity training, which has been ongoing; to address tracking in algebra, which the Board did in July 2017; and to address isolation in the TWI program, which is now before the Board.

Two of the 15 recommendations that are in the evaluation phase are 1) to combine the African Centered Curriculum program and the Two-Way Immersion program into a single instructional approach, and 2) to devise an enrollment management strategy that minimizes the disproportionate impact of busing on Black and Latinx students. To implement either of these recommendations may require “significant restructuring of existing programming or creation of new programming,” said Dr. Goren.

The remaining two recommendations, which relate to implementing the Two-Way Immersion program in the middle-school grades and establishing a parent mentor program, are scheduled for the 2018-19 school year, Dr. Goren said.

A table presented to the Board summarized in three columns each of the 17 recommendations in the Equity Report, the strategies in the Strategic Plan that relate to each recommendation, and the work the District has been or is engaging in this year to implement the recommendation.

Dr. Goren said the table shows how the recommendations in the Equity Report align with strategies in the Strategic Plan. In addition, he said 15 of the recommendations in the Equity Report are already embedded in the District’s work plan for this school year. 

In January, administrators plan to present to the Board a draft document that essentially consolidates the strategies in the Strategic Plan and the recommendations of the Equity Report, using an equity lens. The document will also propose some new metrics of success. 

The draft document will be for discussion and subject to revision, said Maria Allison, Chief Strategy Officer. Ultimately it will give a clear picture in one document what the District’s priorities are going forward, and it can be used to develop a work plan for 2018-19.

Measuring the Impact of Equity Training on Kids

Board member Joseph Hailpern asked that another column be added to the table that would identify “success criteria” for each recommendation. As an example, he referred to a recommendation to reduce the disproportionality of students of color identified for Special Education. The District said several strategies underway to address this recommendation include anti-bias and racial literacy training of staff, and a study to identify the “root causes in our policies and practices that lead to overrepresentation of students of color in Special Education.”

Mr. Hailpern said after the training is done, “We would expect some sort of cultural systems change to the institution. … We would expect less overrepresentation of students of color in Special Education programs.” He asked if that would be a measure of success.

Dr. Allison said that’s a good example of what they are talking about when they say they want to incorporate new metrics of success in the January report.

Peter Godard, Chief Officer of Accountability, Equity & Organizational Development, said the metrics to evaluate the equity training will include three things: first, the “reach,” or how many persons have been trained and the type of training received (e.g., Beyond Diversity, SEED, etc.); second, the “quality” of the training from the view of the participants; and third, the “application,” which would be how frequently teachers are applying what they have learned in the classroom.

Board member Candance Chow said, “How can we look at the impact [of equity training] over time – at the impact on students, and their sense of identity, value, belonging, which I think is the theory of change here. Right? We need to make sure every student is reflected, valued, identified as having strong relationships in the classroom and that they are celebrated. That then leads them to have more self-efficacy and knowledge they have potential and can achieve at that potential.

“We need to get an understanding over time of how this affects differences in the way children are viewing themselves, and even families are viewing themselves, with respect to the institution that we’re trying to shift.

 “That for me is the most amorphous piece of this, and what I have not quite frankly seen being measured. …  I feel like that’s the lever we’re saying we need to unleash the potential of a lot of our students. So how can we measure that leverage point, and how can we stay true to that and see that we are effecting change in that area. Because otherwise I think it’s a lot about adults, and not about the effect on children.”

Dr. Allison suggested the District could look at “shifts in students’ perceptions of the learning environment,” using surveys of older students.

Mr. Godard said, “The skills you are pointing to are important skills, and they are ones we want to move.”

He added, “By participating in many of these trainings, folks will develop skills that they can use in the classroom to potentially create more inclusive welcoming and equitable learning environments, but it also enables them to engage in learning about culturally relevant pedagogy in a deeper way and enables them to work on student discipline in a deeper way.”

“I think that’s critical to our underlying theory of  how this works,”  said Ms. Chow. “I’m not diminishing the importance of that piece happening. I’m just trying to think ultimately how we get to the impact on kids.”

The January Document

Administrators will present to the Board a draft document in January that will, in essence, consolidate strategies in the Strategic Plan and the recommendations in the Equity Report into a single document, and the document will be prepared using a racial equity lens.

The District’s Strategic Plan “has many equity components embedded in it,” and the Equity Report, and this crosswalk, “lifts those up,” said Dr. Goren. “Partly what you’ll see is the real focus within the plan and the real focus, as Corrie [Wallace] has pushed us, to actively move forward in more deep ways on equity. … We’re going to highlight that as we move forward.”

 “I think that there are parts of the Strategic Plan, to be totally candid, that are light on the way they address equity, even though the underscoring recommendation is a strategy that can be applied with a very specific racial equity intentionality,” said Dr. Allison.  She said, “When we talk about putting together our reflections for January, it really gives us a chance to give an update and a reflection from a view of two and a half years in of implementation and a lot of thinking and learning about racial equity.” One approach would be to say, “I’m going to front load racial equity as the point of this strategy and do it with a higher degree of intentionality and elevate that aspect of it, and I think that’s what we’re looking to do.”

Board member Anya Tanyavutti said she would like community members to have an opportunity to weigh in on the draft document after it is presented to the Board. She added she would like to see a discussion of “our early childhood programs and how they are aligned in order to address issues of equity, given how important we know early childhood is to educational equity.” She also asked that the January report include broader assessment tools.

Dr. Goren said these issues would be addressed.

Lindsay Cohen, Rebeca Mendoza, and Sergio Hernandez asked if the report could include examples of what other school districts are doing that have shown success.

Dr. Goren said what administrators have been thinking about is, “What will facilitate and accelerate the achievement of our Black and Latinx students? If we ask that question, then we have to then come back with what different models we might have to be able to respond to that.”

Ms. Chow said, “It would be great to see other models of what other districts have done and are doing to accelerate that impact on change from an organizational standpoint. Obviously, we’ll chart our own path.”

Ms. Tanyavutti said, “I would argue that we do have a model in our District of how we have supported TWI in terms of staffing support. And we can learn about how that program has accelerated culturally relevant learning opportunities while staff have opportunities to grow.”

The Board is scheduled to discuss the issues in January.

Recommendations of the Racial and Educational Equity Report

The seven main recommendations of the Racial and Educational Equity Report are: • Increase the level of racial literacy, social-emotional learning, and culturally relevant teaching throughout District 65 • Address the detrimental impact of math placement • Devise an enrollment management strategy that minimizes the disproportionate impact of busing on Black and Latinx students and increases parent/family access to schools within walking distance of traditionally underrepresented students’ homes• Develop and implement a plan that addresses five issues regarding the ACC and TWI programs• Develop a plan to address racial representation of teachers and to increase recruitment, hiring, and retention of individuals that have an equity mindset• Create inclusive “welcoming” spaces and opportunities throughout District 65• Institutionalize the District’s commitment to equity and empowerment through dedicated staffing and organizational structures (e.g., an equity and empowerment office) to maintain a focus on equity and the implementation of the equity plan.

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...