Board Of Ed To Hear Equity Study Report

Westport Public Schools should take 4 steps:

  • Develop welcoming and affirming school communities
  • Increase access to educational programming for every student
  • Overhaul data systems: disaggregate data collection, analysis and usage
  • Invest in ongoing professional teaming and development.

Those are the recommendations of the New York University Steinhardt Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools.

They were hired by the district, to focus on students’ experiences in our schools. Those experiences, says superintendent of schools Thomas Scarice, are “foundational to the overall academic, psychological and social development of all students, and are a critically necessary component of public education.”

There is a “moral imperative” in public schools, he adds, for “the identities of all students (to be) seen heard and valued.”

For over a year — complicated by the pandemic — the NYU consultants looked at a variety of indicators (student performance, discipline data, surveys, etc.) and conducted focus groups with students, parents and staff, to see how various subgroups (for example racial, ethnic, gender, socioeconomic status, and disability) compared in areas like access to programs and services, school climate, and curriculum and instruction.

Tonight (Monday, April 25, 7 p.m., Staples High School cafeteria), the Board of Education will examine the equity study. They’ll begin making plans to work with Scarice on action steps. (Click here to read Scarice’s letter to the Board of Ed, offering background information on the study, and its historical background in American education.)

The 72-page report provides detailed statistics on the racial, ethnic, gender and disability makeup of the schools’ students and staff; comments from focus group participants on school climate in areas like expectations, competition, achievement, and sensitivity of classmates and educators to students who are not white, affluent, able-bodied, cisgendered or straight, as well as expectations and implications for instruction and curriculum.

The report includes a number of comments from focus groups, detailing areas that students, parents and staff feel the district is handling well or poorly.

The NYU consultants’ 4 recommendations covered areas like:

  • Recognizing the marginalization of vulnerable communities (Black, Latinx, LGBTQ), and the importance of educating through an intersectional lens
  • Examining how students are selected for Advanced Placement, Honors, A and B academic tracks, to address disproportionality
  • Analyzing and systematizing discipline referrals and codes of conduct
  • Developing a plan to develop administrators, teachers and staff that responds to the needs of students and families across all kinds of differences.

(Click here to read the full report.)

7 responses to “Board Of Ed To Hear Equity Study Report

  1. Wow! Tonight BOE folks are gonna’ learn how to “educate through an intersectional lens”…wish I were taught through such a lens, whatever the hell it is; and they are gonna’ have the additional lesson in how to “address
    disproportionality” in advanced courses. I thought advanced course were supposed to have “disproportionality.” ie, really, really bright kids as opposed to simply bright or averagely bright kids…of course there’s disproportionality in advance placement…that’s why it’s advanced instead of “main stream”. So let us now, dumb it down because it’s too “disproportional.” Wonderful!

  2. Michael Mossman

    Wow! Its not even 7 AM and the pearl clutching has begun. I read Superintendent Scarice’s letter and it says nothing of lowering standards. It speaks of finding ways to support demographic groups that need it.

    Cue the zero sum fearmongers that think that more for some means less for others. How about searching for ways to support all of our students and their families and get the best from everyone and not living in terror of losing status, privilege… your tee time at Longshore, the last pickle ball court, etc. A finding of disproportionality means that we see an opportunity to get better results from underperforming groups, not that we must slow down our well performing students. If there was language or intent to do that I sure didn’t see it. Maybe I should check under my bed…

    I don’t believe anyone in Westport, from any racial, ethnic or economic group has any interest in holding back our wonderful community of high flyers from achieving to the best of their ability. Rather, creating a culture of mentorship and inclusion adds strength of character to academic excellence.

    So please don’t buy into the divisive, politically motivated “us against them” mentality that rears its ugly head here from time to time. If there are more folks looking for a slice of the pie, just bake another pie. We can afford it.

  3. Hmmm, Mike, a bunch to unbuckle here. Let me rest by simply saying I agree with you that all educational efforts ought to be expended for ALL students. However, ADVANCED PLACEMENT will ALWAYS have a “disproportionality” because, by definition, it is ADVANCED and efforts toward “inclusion” should not threaten that INTENDED “disproportionality.”
    No political anything intended…I deeply hate the people and the “philosophy” of the folks whom you sort of put in bed with me.

  4. Don Willmott

    BOE: “We need a plan What should we do?”
    Highly Paid Consultant: “Develop a plan.”

  5. Clark Thiemann

    I read the report and, while I probably don’t agree with all of the things it emphasizes, I think it raises a number of interesting questions which need to be explored. Why are students of color over-represented in lower track classes? Why are students of color disproportionally disciplined relative to their white student counterparts? This might mean that they feel marginalized and need to lash out more or it might be something like the white students are “getting away with” things that might get disciplined differently for a student of color or less affluent student. We won’t know until we look more deeply.

    I don’t know, but having the schools see these issues actively, examine them and address them seems like a very good idea and hopefully has nothing to do with “dumbing down” the excellence of the schools.

  6. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Interesting on so many fronts. Harris for President!!!!

  7. Werner Liepolt

    The intersectionality focus is so dependent on ethnic, family, and generational elements it is hard to conceive of how effectively a school system can address (or counter?) those elements.

    It is not unique to see educational consultants adopt recent trends in business and career oriented trends and attempt to apply them to education.

    Having read the report I am struck by the lack of recognition of what a pervasive effect tutoring has on student acceptance into AP courses and, of courser, college acceptance plays. There is only one reference to tutoring in the entire report!

    As a former teacher in Westport, a major disappointment was the look-the—other-way attitude that cheating—which I viewed as pervasive— was treated.
    In that regard, I would suggest that a strong focus on integrity, honesty, and academic standards could go a long way towards addressing the racial bias, discriminatory inequity and general behavioral malfunction the Equity Study seems to identify.