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.)