Thursday’s “06880” post about a website criticizing the Westport Public Schools’ focus on “assertions of racism in our community” — and the hiring of NYU Metro Center to perform an equity audit on our school system — drew over 60 comments.
It also elicited a comment from Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice. He says:
Culture wars are not new to public schools. The recent “critical race theory” national discussions have found its stage in local public school settings. Across the country there is evidence of outlandish claims, emotional appeals, inaccurate inferences, and personal attacks, while other honest inquiries stem from curious and inquisitive parents and community members.
In either case, it is important to respectfully address concerns constructively, in a way that surfaces specific claims about the actual practices in our schools in Westport. Finding common ground is essential to the ongoing performance of public schools.
The current hyperbole of “CRT” strays widely from the original academic legal theory studied at the advanced graduate level. To my knowledge, no Westport Public School educator has this advanced training in “CRT.”
In fact, you will have difficulty finding any K-12 educator trained in this theory. There is no CRT “curriculum” in Westport. We study all types of thinkers and theories in schools. Teaching kids “how” to think, not “what” to think, is an obligation of educators. Teaching kids to use critical thinking skills to analyze, synthesize, evaluate, etc. is a primary goal of education.
In 2017 the Westport Public Schools adopted a 3-year strategic plan. A strategic commitment to diversity and inclusion is explicitly stated by capturing the efforts the district had made under the heading, “We Value Diversity and Inclusion.”
In partnering with the community, that work has continued with a variety of efforts, including the initiation of an equity study. This study, which like most studies will be iterative, encompasses only part of the work that we do with our students every day.
The goals of the study are to assess the extent to which our students feel a sense of belonging and affiliation in our schools, the extent to which there is equitable access to all programs and services that we offer, and to work to enhance programs to prepare all students for the incredibly diverse world they will inhabit as adults.
The study, facilitated by consultants at NYU, has shed light on some of the disparities in outcomes for different groups of students. However, this work is intended to benefit each and every student in the Westport Public Schools.
The professional educators and locally elected Board of Education will determine the action steps as a result from the study, not outside consultants. I am confident that the community will see this work as very inclusive, and unlike the hyperbole around CRT, not divisive. Ultimately, the findings and action plans will be considered for the Board of Education’s adoption of a long-term strategic plan.