The new policy emphasizes the value of diversity, defines the meaning of equity, and sets out concrete steps for the district to follow.
At its public meeting on August 23, the Board of Education approved a revised Board Statement and Board Policy about equity.
“Equity is not the same as equality,” the new Board Statement on Equity notes. “Whereas equality provides the same resources throughout the system on a per capita basis, equity demands the allocation of resources based on need and support for each student’s success.”
The Board began exploring updates to the policy in June of 2021. The work was slowed during the pandemic, but two community members – Olivia Higgins, who has been active in the district’s work to support LGBTQ students and staff, and Ryan LaLonde, president of the PTA Council – helped research policies in other districts and drafted early language.
The updated policy expands the characteristics protected under the equity policy to all those protected under state law. It also provides more nuanced equity goals, which now include the following language:
The Board of Education embraces the differences in our community and not only seeks tolerance in our District but inclusivity at all levels of education with a goal of student specific rigor that ensures that each and every voice is heard and supported. Addressing the needs of the most marginalized learners requires recognition of the inherent value of diversity and acknowledgement that educational excellence requires a commitment to equity in the opportunities provided to students and the resulting outcomes.
Recognizing the challenges posed by bias and prejudice, the policy calls for the district to “proactively identify class and cultural biases as well as practices, policies, and institutional barriers that negatively influence student learning, perpetuate achievement gaps, and impede equal access to opportunities for all students.”
Tangible steps to improvement
Far from a theoretical document, the policy also calls for the development and implementation of concrete strategies to promote equity in district programs, including
- Assessing student needs based on disaggregated data
- Analyzing expenditures and allocating financial and human resources in a manner that Provides all students with equitable access to district programs
- Conducting a review of all District policies, procedures and programs with an equity lens
- Building a positive school climate that promotes student engagement, safety, and academic and other supports for students
- Adopting curriculum and instructional materials that accurately reflect the diversity among student groups and prioritizes the adoption of District-wide anti-racist curriculum
- Providing and/or collaborating with local agencies and community groups to ensure the availability of necessary support services for students
- Promoting the employment and retention of a diverse staff
- Providing district staff with ongoing, researched-based, professional development, including on culturally responsive instructional practices
- Conducting program evaluations that focus on equity and address the academic outcomes and performance of all students on all indicators
This focused lens on equity also aligns with the Strategic Plan’s equity goals. “This new policy helps us set direction for the district,” says Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi. “We’ve heard various interpretations of what equity means in an educational setting over the last several years. This is an important step toward getting us all on the same page.”
“I am so pleased to have a fully articulated Board Policy on equity,” says Board President Jennifer Williams. “Our Board is unified in their commitment to a foundation of equity in our district, grateful to all the staff and community members who contributed to this, and excited about moving forward with this work. ”