Written by: Mike Omenazu
1. What is our definition of equity?
This question is important for aligning your district around a shared definition of equity. Does your district define equity as making sure that students have everything they need to thrive? Tailoring resources and opportunities to each student’s individual needs? Providing all students with high-quality instruction and opportunities? Before you can start taking action, you need to have a big-picture vision and definition for what equity means to your specific community.
2. What are our measurable goals around equity and inclusion?
This question anchors on an important truth: What gets measured matters. As you develop a framework for addressing equity, you must also find ways to measure, quantify, and report on this important work. Especially when working to dismantle systems that have been in place for years (and sometimes decades), it’s important to have clear goals and benchmarks — even small ones — along the way.
For example, at Morris School District (NJ), the district attaches SMART goals to each plank in its equity and inclusion action plan. By 2022, the districts aims to have:
- 50 percent of each race/ethnic and socio-economic subgroup of students in 12th grade participating in at least one AP class
- All non-ELL, economically disadvantaged students passing ELA assessments at the same rate as the New Jersey average
3. How are our students thinking and feeling about equity and inclusion at school?
Students are an excellent, but often untapped, source of information on how your district is doing to create an equitable and respectful learning environment. Don’t leave student voice out of the picture. Today, there are many low-lift and powerful ways to gather student feedback on equity and inclusion at school.
You might explore questions like: How diverse, integrated, and fair do students consider their schools? How often do students report discussing issues of race, ethnicity, and culture in school? How much do students feel like they belong? Survey your students at least twice a year for consistent benchmarking, and make sure that you’re hearing from all students — anonymously — so that you don’t overlook a particular student group’s feelings.
4. How might some groups of students be experiencing school climate differently than others?
Analyze your school climate survey data to understand how different student groups perceive school climate. For instance, let’s say you’ve gathered feedback on students’ feelings of safety and belonging at school. Disaggregate the results by demographics — such as by race/ethnicity, Free and Reduced Price Lunch (FRPL) status, and English Language Learner (ELL) status — to see how specific student groups reflected on their experiences of safety and belonging compared to district or school averages. This could shed light on experience gaps that need to be addressed.
5. What academic achievement gaps might exist between groups of students?
Measure your district’s progress against national and state achievement trends. What do your district’s graduation and dropout rates look like across race/ethnicity, socioeconomic, and gender lines? Are some cohorts of students more “at risk” or “critical” for math and ELA performance, based on state assessment data, than other student groups? While this data can be unsettling to see, it can spur dialogue about school- and district-level policies that may be giving some students greater access to resources than other students.
6. What groups of students may be over- or underrepresented in advanced course enrollment or gifted and talented programs?
Related to the question above, this question can help you dig deeper on academic disparities. Look into whether some student populations are enrolled in advanced or honors courses, or gifted and talented programs, at a higher or lower rate than others. If you see discrepancies, this could be a sign that some students are not receiving the same level of access, resources, or opportunities as other students when it comes to advanced instruction and programming.
7. What groups of students may be over- or underrepresented in our disciplinary and behavioral data?
This question will help you find out if disciplinary action — such as office referrals, suspensions, and expulsions — is applied equitably across all demographic groups. We know that disproportionate rates of suspension for students of color persist on the state and national levels. Does what you’re seeing mirror national trends, or is something else true in your community? This data is a good a starting point for important conversations about educator beliefs, mindsets, and policies.
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